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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  July 6, 2011 9:00am-12:00pm EDT

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people believe that wealth is just the product of luck where 60% think it's all hard work. and here you see our social spending down toward the bottom. when you contrast that with europeans, 74% of whom believe luck plays a major role in wealth, and look at their social spending. here we have perception become policy. so what's the other way that we commonly talk about inequality we talk about the heights of inequality. we talk about people getting crushed and getting lowered and at least this does bring us all into a single economy. for somebody to be on top of somebody else, they have to be in contact. however, it presents another deep conceptual challenge. one of the foundational metaphors that we have in the english language is of good
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being up and bad being down. that's why we say, i was down in the dumps or things are looking up. when we use this kind of top/bottom language we re-enforce the idea that the rich are superior. they, quote-unquote, have more worth, morally. which, of course, is preposterous and antithetical to any argument that we would be making. and here many of you are familiar with the work in investigating people's perception of wealth and equality of wealth in our nation. they asked people what do you think the level of wealth and equality is the idea if you could set it what would it be. in the top graph you're seeing the actual. what the distribution really is. in the middle, the aggregate estimate that people give. you can see they're way off and then finally the ideal. what they would have it be.
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there are many astounding things about this research not least of which had self-identified bush voters favoring an ideal distribution of wealth that would make us sweden, which, you know, we're really close to that. just right on. for me the most astounding thing is something that the researchers didn't even intend, and that's the fact that just doing this research presupposes for the participants that the level of inequality in our society is something that we could actually alter. we could have an ideal and yet our language says the exact opposite. it does not privilege this notion. and so what would we need to be able to say and convey about inequality? at a minimum people need to understand that inequality is something manmade.
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it's not from the heavens. it's not because that person is lazy or that person is smarter. it harms individuals and the whole. it's not just the people that suffer. the entire system is made less good. it's alterable. we can do something about it but doing something about it requires actual attention. and so if the language of gap and the language of vertical difference don't do that, what would? i found in my research, the research that barry cited, the language of barrier emerging in the language data. the idea of manmade walls, constructed objects that keep people on one side and keep others off in their gated communities, protected from the likes of the rest of us. this puts the attention on the manmade obstacles to prosperity which actually exists as opposed
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to the individual failings that just happen to put me on one side of the grand canyon and you on the other. this speaks to the experiences of individuals within the economy. i found a second model within my research, the notion of internal imbalance, an economy offkilter, not able to move and function as it should because the power imbalance is simply too great. if we use this kind of language to talk about inequality, it might sound like this. it might sound like obstacles and barriers, impediments and, of course, when we remove barriers, what do we have? we have access as in access to opportunity or access to education to transportation as rah was just talking to us.
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the imbalance to talk about problems in an economy overall sounds like distortion, vertigo, offkilter and very much like the language barry was using because barry is a smart guy. i know this sounds hard. it sounds hard to get away from this language that's so deeply entrenched but actually we have an incredibly useful model. in our own oratory, a lonely island of prosperity -- poverty, excuse me, in the midst of a vast ocean of prosperity. the idea of the corners of american society and someone being in exile, this is the language of barriers. and, in fact, i was struck in looking back over the collected works of arguably one of our greatest orators and certainly the most profound and prolific on the subject of inequality,
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dr. martin luther king. he spoke about inequality with almost every breath and yet he never, ever used the word gap. we used to know how to talk about inequality. and we need to relearn because the thing that we say that inequality is radically alters people's ability to understand it is a man made problem that we can and must address today. thank you so much. [applause] >> hand it off to nathan. [applause] >> was i right? i was right. so if we think about strategies for removing barriers and for diminishing the distortions in our society, collective bargaining has to be a core strategy for moving forward. [applause]
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>> luckily, that's what our next speaker is going to talk about, liz schuller is the secretary treasurer of the afl-cio. she is the youngest member ever of that federation's executive council and she's the first woman to hold the position of secretary treasurer. if the unions are moving forward in transforming themselves, she's one of the big reasons why. please help me in welcoming to the stage, liz schuller. [applause] >> thank you. all right. thank you, barry, for the introduction. and i'd like to think raj for raising the bar. thanks a lot for the rest of us and not those creative messaging tools that we all need to address inequality. i wish i would have heard her before my speech. so why am i here as part of this
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panel? the whole point of what i want to talk to you today is the power of collective action and how it could counter the rise in inequality and how unions fit into that picture. now, when i think about inequality, especially, as of late, i think about those teachers in wisconsin, construction workers in ohio, nurses in new hampshire, who have been locked out and denied their basic rights to collective bargaining. we've seen what it looks like the state capital in wisconsin and we show you now what's happening in office buildings all across this country. ♪ >> here's to america's workers. when the economy was down, they sacrificed. during tough times when executive bonuses soared workers pay stalled and they lost benefits but it was for the good
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of the company to keep profits high, to keep the economy going. but now business is back. ceo pay and company profits are hitting new highs. it's time for america's workers to share in the prosperity. give us your tired cubicle workers, your weary factory workers, your exhausted teacher. give us your soldier aches, your carpal tunnel, your bunions because this is the negotiating table. it's your time, american worker, and the negotiating table will welcome you. the negotiating table is there for you to -- well, maybe it's not -- well, the negotiating table isn't really available to you just yet. >> without collective bargaining workers don't have a voice at the table. >> i really didn't see that coming. >> yeah. so thanks to the folks at laughing liberally. and without collective bargaining workers are locked out. they don't have a voice at the
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table. and that's what this was all about. the wisconsin uprising -- [applause] >> the wisconsin uprising was about people defending their rights to join together and be represented at the bargaining table, to have a say in their future. now, scott walker, john kasich and other republican politicians and dozens of states have gone all out to silence workers' voices. and after being in wisconsin, i can't actually mention scott walker's name without thinking of this photo. anybody seen this one? [laughter] >> wide load, narrow mind. what can i say. no matter what these politicians say, the attacks on working people and collective bargaining -- they're not about state budget deficits. they're about deliberate political choices to take power away from working people and weaken unions.
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[applause] >> they are the political payback to industries and rich people who fund campaigns. paybacks force working people to shoulder the burden of the economic recovery while people like the koch brothers and the devoss family profit from it. now, a lot of those choices have been down right cruel and some have been so extreme they seem almost fake. so we put together a quiz that we call real or not. so here's how it works. i'll tell you about a piece of legislation and you say if it's real or not real and i made it up. so here we go. a new england governor and republican legislators proposed rolling back child labor laws so kids could work longer hours and get paid less. real or not real? all right. you guys -- you're on top of it. it's real.
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maine governor paula page signed a version of it into law. maine wasn't the only state to consider rolling back child labor laws this year if you can believe that. so here's another. a midwest senator proposed requiring foster children to use their whopping $70 clothing allowance in thrift stores, real or unreal. unbelievable that's real. that was michigan's bruce caswell who said i never had anything new. i got all hand me downs. now, i don't know whether to laugh or cry. what happened to public servants, you know, serving their constituents? creating jobs, good-paying jobs? these state-based attacks on working people are part of a long-term agenda to take from those who have so little and give it to those who have so much. and state politicians aren't just after collective
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bargaining, are they? they are attacking education, construction workers, immigrants, voting rights and on capitol hill, politicians want to destroy medicare, shred education at every level while doing nothing to grow the economy and help hard-working americans. and guess what? the result raging inequality. america is creating more wealth than ever before but most of us aren't seeing any of it. almost all of it is going to the very richest. or should i say the luckiest? corporate profits are back. and last year the average ceo made over $11 million. that is enough to pay off the college debt of 473 grads. or to pay for 225 of those overpaid teachers that we keep
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hearing about. so what does that have to do with the attacks on collective bargaining and unions? let's take a look at this chart. what happens when union membership falls? it's the red line you see. look what happens to it. the middle class falls right with it. collective bargaining, taking action together is one of the best ways to remove those barriers to shared prosperity. don't you all think it's tragic that so many politicians are willing to make life harder for women and children and young people and seniors and working families? it's as if they're trying to board up the doors to the middle class and not let low-incomed workers in so that they don't make it in. so we talked a lot about the problems and i talked a lot about them already. let's talk about the solution. because together we can keep those doors open. and all across the country, people are joining together in
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new ways to make their voices heard. they're rising up. people in working class neighborhoods across the midwest are joining the neighborhoods in afl-cio's working america right there in the house. by canvassing right on people's door steps, we are organizing people who don't have a union on the job. in california, immigrant car wash workers who are routinely cheated on pay, harassed by their bosses and exposed to toxic chemicals have come together to organize and they've actually won lawsuits against their owners. young workers from teaching assistants to tech workers are forming groups to stand up for themselves and for the rights of others. and domestic workers like nannies and housekeepers who don't even have the legal right to collective bargaining are
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self-organizing. and those are the bright spots that give me hope. and i see these sparks all across america. but i see these bright spots across the globe as well. and i just got back from geneva, literally. i'm still six hours behind, and i was a part of the most amazing thing. for the first time ever, the rights of domestic workers were recognized by international law. that's right. [applause] >> and as you all know, these are some of the most vulnerable workers. not allowed in some cases to even leave the property. not allowed to wear gloves when they're cleaning toilets. they don't have a shift. they're actually oncall 24 hours a day. and now they have the right to reasonable hours of work, paid time off and protection from discrimination and sexual abuse.
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they won a global workers -- domestic workers bill of rights by coming together as an international alliance to demand their rights be acknowledged. so listen to these workers who are courageous enough to speak out. >> in isolation, a worker or a sector of workers has no power. we can only find power, you know, in numbers. and we can do that by joining associations, joining alliances. we can do that by uniting the working class here in america and globally. so we need power. we cannot rely on legislation. we cannot rely on the democrats or the republicans or the corporations. >> there is an assault in our right. they sent an assault our way that continues to decrease. the only way you're going to be able to exercise power it would
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be through collective action. >> now, the afl-cio has just entered into new partnerships with the national domestic workers alliance and the national guest workers alliance. because as was just said in the video no worker has power in isolation. and for low wage workers excluded under our law, for people who freelance or work for themselves, that may include some of you, for young workers, high tech workers, temporary, contract workers and the 3 million members of working america, the only collective power they have is what they create themselves. and they're doing it and it is so exciting. because no individual worker, no single union, no one progressive activist or one single blogger alone can counter the entrenched
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money drenched power of corporations and the wealthy. but together we have a chance. and that's the one thing i hope i leave you with today is together we actually have a chance. and that's why what we do makes a difference. not we just as in the afl-cio but we as in you, the afl-cio, all our progressive partners and elected leaders who have the moral fiber to stand up against the tide and work for working people. we know the power of organizing. we see the hunger for it. whenever we see that blue wisconsin fist, we see the power in that simple phrase, "we are one." and i'm grateful that we are one with the people of netroots nation. thank you. [applause]
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>> thank you very much. liz shuler, everybody. our last presenter is melissa bradley. she's the ceo of the values-based social change platform that does good throughout our community. i encourage you to get to know them. she's an innovate ter. she's a social entrepreneur. she goes out of a asset background to talk about wealth equality please welcome me to the stage, melissa bradley. [applause] >> thank you, sir. i appreciate it. >> good afternoon. so this is my first time with netroots nation. i've heard great things. let me try it again. good afternoon! [applause] >> i got up at 4:00 am to be
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here so i need you to be more excited and give me some energy back while we go through this. first let me say i've had a chance to watch the presentations from last year and i'm a huge fan of both deepak and elizabeth warren so i'm feeling a little bit of pressure standing in front of you so hopefully you'll help me out with that. but more importantly, i've kind of scratched what i was supposed to talk about because i was feeling even more pressure from my six kids when i shared with them when i was going to talk with, that's all right. how much more time do you have to, would on that. do you think people are going to get that? so i actually took away everything that i was going to talk about and changed it because based on what i've heard and some of the people i met it's a much more relevant message than just being able to talk about money because what's wrong with what's happening in this country is not just about money. but it's really about people. it's about policy. and it's about power or the lack thereof. and so what i really want to talk about today is discuss how inequality affects lives, why
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inequality exists, how it is shifting and what's different and hopefully offer some solutions that we can all build upon in this room. so how does inequality affect lives? well, it affects everyone differently. for some based on the economic recession, despite the recovery that they say is coming, inequality has manifested itself in lower pensions, declining stock portfolios, higher payments on their homes but for others it manifests it in even worse ways. it means homelessness, it means unemployment, it means poverty and for some it even means prison. when you have unemployment rates that are over 15% for african-americans, there's a problem. when you have homeownership rates that are only just above 40% for african-americans, even a little bit higher for latinos but yet over 70% for whites, we see the inequality is becoming bigger and bigger. it's important for us, though, to not just start blaming people. but to recognize that the history of inequality has been
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legislated. and that actually continues. we see that specifically for african-americans, for latinos as well as for asian-americans. i want to take a minute for the legislative inequality because it's significant. as someone who's got two degrees i've never heard some of these stories. it was missing from my history class. so either we're not talking about it or we choose to act like we don't know but it's clearly created the framework in the context for what we're facing today. so for african-americans, at the end of the civil war there was an opportunity to create a new starting line for us after slavery. and so you had the freed man's bureau that began to distribute land and it was 40 acres and a mule and 40 years later they abolished the freedman's bureau and you'll realize all the land we had went back to the landowners which were predominantly white. and while sharecropping was set up it was a way to cap the ability of african-americans to earn wealth, to keep their land.
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it goes on in terms of what we have done in this country to continue to legislate and mandate laws in our country. the united states still has the longest relationship with mexico. mexico won its independence in 1821. three years later, though, the united states passed the monroe doctrine which said we would protect mexico. we would protect it from the european powers. however, that doctrine actually allowed the united states to intervene on our behalf. we created a paternal relationship with that country and it continues to be the dominance we have now. we went to war with mexico and we took over more land and in 1848 we had the treaty which gave united states half of mexico's land. we promised mexican landowners that we would let them keep their land but we know what would happen. that was not the case. we reneged on our promised.
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we took back that land and we did it through legislation. for the first time we created racial categories that were used that were determined who could hold land. english language was established as the dominant language and all land ownership papers and everything was done in english. mandating and creating cultural barriers we would continue to perpetuate inequality. and for asian-americans the same thing existed. a series of laws were created to begin to minimize and marginalize their opportunity and their wealth. the chinese immigrants were drawn into the gold rush which you often don't hear and because we created a foreign miners tax which was designed to push them out. we created a tax of 25% that then allowed only those dollars to be used to subsidize government jobs and services but those services were exclusively given to whites. it was one of the first tax-based racial transfers of wealth in this country. and it continued on and on.
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so we know throughout history we have seen legislative mandates that have maintained inequality in this country. the reality while it may not be as bold through legislative mandates, it still exists but it's a little less obvious. the obvious barriers that we continue to front are things like social capital. many of you wouldn't be here i clearly wouldn't be here who we knew someone who knew someone but if you grow up in north new jersey or you grow up in new york city and you go to public school, you don't meet the people i met at georgetown and you don't meet the people who go to harvard and you've already developed caps on limitations in the material just based on the social capital. we also had seen within the financial service industry where i had spent most of my life that other barriers exist. for example, why is it that you can only get the highest interest rate when you can put in the most money? i never understood that. why is it we actually have regulatory barriers that
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financial regulatory agencies enforce that actually limit the amount of money that can be lent or placed in underserved communities. why do we have legislation and asset requirements that limit our ability to even invest in clean energy? things that we don't know but subtleties that are having a huge impact in creating and perpetuating inequality. we will see have seen more obvious shifts in equality. based on the historic examples that i gave we saw that much of that was individuals against individuals. but now inequality runs the risk and it's shifting because inequality is now institutions against individuals. with citizens united we have more money at stake. and we have more systemic barriers to equality. we can see that now inequality is moved from just an issue about race and class but about systems and institutions and individuals. so the question becomes, what are some of the solutions that we can begin to think about? and there are many. if we go back to what i believe
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is potentially an opportunity for us, forgive me, it said people plus policy equal power. people plus policy equal power. if we begin to engage people and instead of the back stabbing and the criticism and the -- hanging people out to dry or throwing them under the bus as my kids would say, we begin on to identify the common values that we all have. we're seeing a shift in many states across the country, some we never would have thought of where minorities are becoming the majority. we're seeing that it's not just those that are already on the bottom that are suffering from this economic demise, but it's everyone. we have the greatest opportunity we've ever had to support and enforce solidarity amongst all people. it is no longer about the separation by race or by class but the separation by legislative mandates of those and do not. we have the opportunity to engage on line and offline. the revolution will not be televised but it will be on the
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web. it will be tweeted and it will be happening in communities. we're beginning to see that right now. so with people we know that we have an opportunity. but then there comes policy. we need to shift the policy that we have and begin to remove the barriers and actually begin to also decrease the deficit. we begin to decrease that which continues to perpetuate the difference between the have's and the have not's. we need many things many of you have talked about on a regular basis. better regulation on the real estate markets. we need a wealth tax surcharge with households of $10 million or more and if we did that we will actually save $300 billion a year. we need to eliminate the tax preference for capital gains. we have the system -- we have a system whereby americans pay different rates. americans who make more than a million dollars a year only pay 15% but i was surprised to find out that a police officer in my
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neighborhood in bethesda, maryland ends up paying a tax rate of 35% or more. the capital tax rate should rise as capital gains increase. we also need to support and invest in wealth development. we are very good at pilot programs. but we're not very good at scaling those programs we don't invest in long term stability in those programs. some of those are individual accounts. some include things we had around forever but we don't talk about like the earned tax credit if we were to increase the eitc and the child tax credit and we were able to provide a tax credit to $1,000 per child not just to the poorest families but to low and moderate incomed families, we can move 2 million children and 1 million parents out of poverty. the other thing we need to fix our broken safety net. we need to modernize means tested benefit programs to
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develop a coordinated strategy that actually helps workers and families. we need to minimize the cliff effects. i don't know about you but as i noted i have six kids and so thank goodness they're relatively spread out. ..
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>> whether you are or old. we have security, when all people have the tools, resources and access to institutions, to support their families. and most importantly when we have mobility. where everyone in our society has the chance to move forward in economic and educational status, whether you're from pittsburgh or palo alto. it really shouldn't matter. when we think about the opportunity that we have two breaking down the barriers of inequality there is a recognition that too often we find ourselves fighting over
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things that in the and don't really matter. the opportunity to be able to leverage that which we've learned about unions and the power of collective action, to be able to leverage that, when people are engaged and where they are in the local communities. the ability to amass from one to 10 to 1000 to a million is critical. and not just in terms of elections, but critical in terms of weight that we manage our messages and of how we move people him in knots to the haves. when we think about policy it's important to recognize how policy takes place. it is not just determined during election cycles. it emerges and build some grassroots actions from grassroots communities. it gets passed because of case studies and stories. when real people are identified with real issues and politicians and legislators are able to see that there is indeed real solutions through policies that
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do not erect barriers but create pathways for equality. if we do that than we had the opportunity to achieve power. but the one thing i should say is that we know people plus policy equals power works. we know it works. we've seen it. we've seen it work for the right. we've seen it work for the tea party. we've seen it work for everyone else except ourselves. so what happens with that and what comes with that is an ultimate responsibility, shared responsibility that we will actually use our power correctly, appropriately, and allocated equally. [applause] >> people can talk about 2012 or 2013. i'm 43 years old and my youngest twins are four years old. i respected the right. i believe we have an opportunity to shorten that time but we need to do it now. this is the starting place for
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us to make that shift from inequality to equality. i ask and i am humbled to be part of the screw. i thank you for my first time invitation here. i hope i'm able to come back and build on the momentum we have today. the one thing i would leave us with and the challenge i have for myself, if everyone in this room is that we continue to work to achieve the community we desire, the policies we deserve, and the power that we so desperately need to break down the barriers to inequality. thank you. [applause] >> terrific, thank you so much. let's have a big round of applause for all of our panelists. [applause] >> thank you to those of you who submitted questions on twitter. i've got a few good ones here. netroots nation, if you look
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around is by and large very middle-class, very well educated, and pretty white. and so a lot of us when we got out of college, finish our educational track, we found jobs. that's not happening for those same people who look alike we did when we were younger today. they are getting out of college. they are getting out of graduate school. and they are not finding jobs. and we know that for every month, for every year that they don't get a job, they are stunted on their path to their pursuit of happiness, on their path to prosperity. so my first question is how do you think that that dynamic is going to change the politics of this issue? >> okay. i guess i will jump in. of course, in the labor movement
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this has been issued there's been very troubling to myself personally because as you may of heard we've been trying to do a lot of work reaching out to younger workers because many of them don't have no and labor movement exists, which organize into unions we believe is a path to better economic equality. but you're right because this as clear that we have that function so well for so long where people jump on and kind of rode up and got better in terms of wages and security, and stepped off at a certain point has -- people staying on the as clear and it's crowding people off. so as result, we are seeing young workers entering this economy with very little opportunity and it is alarming. but we believe that also this young generation knows the power of collective action more than any generation.
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we are seeing how they are coming and organizing. we have seen examples all across the country, and in particular california where we have young workers organizing for paid sick leave because they're working contract jobs that don't provide it. in new york, the restaurant industry. so i think it's not, you know, that time is just beginning for these young workers. they're optimistic despite the challenges they have in front of them. >> i share your optimism but i think we have a responsibility. i think there's a challenge. when i think about my kids who range in age from four to 21, i say got to get a job because you cannot come back home. but the reality is when they get out there, they are not there. their history is not our history. so their family with the hanging chad. they are familiar with race is changing at the last minute. so their history is not necessary for with the successes that we are aware of. unfortunately, they're not learning what some of those longer-term historical's are at we heard about from our parents.
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i think there is some sense of lack of access or lack of power around the ability to make change. i think we talk about it a lot. i think you are struggling because they haven't seen it. they don't hear or see what the results are. there's not enough of what they're doing around the country. and high schools and middle schools to say there was a time that we have the power to change. do not let what we've seen in the most recent past dictate our future. i think our responsibility is to remind them of our history and give them a concrete examples of where it changed but give them the tools to overcome the sophistication that has happened over the last couple of years where we have seen those setbacks. >> i think your work is important to this. basically were saying looking at not just the united states but basically all the countries in the developed world, and the degree to which a government is willing to invest and create
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policies that are designed to diminish inequality is directly related to how much solidarity and shared cultural experience exist between the poor and the middle class. talk about the theory of change behind the work that you are doing, and i would be interested to hear from you as well about how, what are the organizing strategies for building that sense of cultural solidarity and those census of common experiences, shared spaces? shared language, right? >> -and many believe the game we're playing his culture shift. i just want to name that. and i know that for me it's what my work and many of the other incredible creative organizers that i had the privilege to serve with is all about. i think in terms of the series changed we have to understand, and i love the way opportunity put it, how do we move hearts,
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minds and policy. we have to recognize as much as it is about structure, system, it's also about people and how do we ship the mind set and the heart set of people where there is a willingness and an openness to consider one that lives outside of one's cultural frame of our lives outside of one's class framework? when i was traveling the country, particularly investigating the issues of transportation, one of the fundamental challenges that the community organizers and the people on the front lines who are affected by these cuts to the bus system with these transportation commissioners came from a completely different class. so they had no idea what it was like to stand at a rainy bus stop for an hour and half with three young children, waiting for the opportunity to get on the bus. if you don't have that reality and you are not engaged in that reality with these far-reaching decisions, then there's no way you can possibly understand, you
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know, what's happening. and yet quote unquote perhaps innocent as it may seem sometimes, not my culture, not where i come from, the impact does not seem so innocent. i think we have to he in on people's mindsets and heart set. ensure that whoever is making decisions is willing to take more than their own reality into account. >> and i think just by virtue of the panelists all having so much in common it symbolizes how much work we have to do in the labor movement to reach out to all of our progressive allies, community groups, and expand our reach more than ever before working together. and i think it was an example, i mentioned to you in new york where they wanted to cut bus service to long island. and the unique, the amalgamated union worked with the writers i actually in a coalition to find a creative solution to bring city council and said it would be more cost effective if we put
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a special link in for this commuter bus. so they ended up in proving service, saving money in the end. so this shows the power when we're working together and creating these alliances, like never before we can be so powerful. >> i'm sort of struck by both parts of the course. i think, because i'm too tempted to go back to the first one, -- >> to go ahead, that's fine. >> i think that the way that you even find that question, the idea that it is near impossible, i was just at my little brothers graduation from college, and i said to all of his friend who are graduating, i'm going to be very careful not to ask what you're doing after graduation. they were like we appreciate that. because couch surfing was the answer.
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the fact that you even rain that is a question of any quality. i don't think that it is. normally thought of in that way. that they are being cut back, and part of that is a simple language tweak. moving from unemployed which suggests unworthy, unskilled the jobless. because let's face it, folks, they are not unemployed. they are jobless. there are no jobs to be had. a most of it is the deeper sort of structural ability to talk about the existence of barriers, and the fact that our communities are being intentionally isolated. gated communities are there for a reason. the various our physical. they are real. and they are not accidental. >> they want a gap, right? >> a grand canyon. >> that is the goal of those who would like to perpetuate and voice any quality on our
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society. they would like to see two separate and separable economies, right? >> yes. >> the way that political inequality, lack of access to the ballot box and the distortions that are created and our politics but our money drenched politics, the way that those things go back and forth, the whole page under the whole issue can seem retractable. there were lots of questions on twitter about priorities, know the nader, are you after? win for hundred of the richest have more wealth than half of our country, should our priority be raising the top tax rate? very reasonable question. i would like to throw to the panel and you can say yes or no to that. but what he think the priority really should live? >> i think the priority should be rebalancing the system
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because when that is the case, so if you have so much, and they have that level of power, it's a problem. because if you look at no matter what side of value are on, although we know once i tends to be state history, if you go back and read the faqs it was this country was based on equality, opportunity for all. we lost that. i think the politicians are not using the right framing but picking dates and moment in time as opposed to really only what the really original values and intentions were. so to me i think priority needs to be kind of recalibrating the system, recalibrating particularly the economic system. we almost in this perfect storm we have raised meeting economic to fester and there you go. and so i think that's necessary. i also think, and i don't know how you overcome this one, but i think we are making a few steps is that we have to shift how people listen.
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the fact that our political system is based on how many dollars i get on not on how many votes i get is a fundamental problem. as yet more and more americans are struggling there's no reason in the world, not a single politician that should be talking about how do we have more aggressive economic system as opposed to how do i not say the vibrant bike helping big companies, how to help the school system and only a certain select school system like what i came from. i think there's a lot of balancing act to take place. >> i could not agree more. it's like the words came from my mouth. our economy is out of whack. of course in terms of priorities we would always argued that jobs, jobs are the priority. for whatever reason the politicians don't hear that. we just went through an election where it was about jobs. and here we are again where people aren't focusing on investing in our economy, creating infrastructure. we're so behind in our roads and bridges in school construction. and basic infrastructure that
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could be a win-win, investing in the sorely needed projects but also green jobs at the same time. that's one example of what we think are the priorities. >> i would add, i would just add taste on your question, of course, i mean, i shouldn't speak for myself. raise our tax rate to 99%. i would be thrilled. should i be wearing more red? but was that already tweeted on that -- >> that's on there, yes. >> but i would argue that that is the point of conversation is already a loss for us. for me the point of conversation should actually be that study. what level of inequality do you favor in this nation? answer that question, and then we will dive into the details
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about how we get there. because if americans are already there, if they are already making themselves a sweden, bush voters. i didn't, you know, we don't even need to talk about what smart people wanting in terms. did i say that out loud? then the conversation about the details about tax policy and, you know, we can get to that. >> sure. >> i think for me personally i think the number of priority, national guard or other be addressing the lack of imagination. and i say that because i think that part of what we're facing is people are very comfortable and very entrenched in place of old ways of being. and see any kind of change or any kind of shift as being threatening to the current reality. by the truth of the matter is, if we can get out of the entrenchment and get out of the sort of right left politics and
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get out of the sort of me, you, us, them and take ourselves to ask around this culture of privilege and entitlement, which is a lot of what kind of gets thrown around and get outside the box, i think the opportunity to really look at how do we get created and innovative and about creating greater accessibility. right? one of the things i would say for two seconds about this younger generation, one of the things i love about what is happening with the younger generation is innovation and entrepreneurship are also starting to take hold in the space of limited opportunity in the more traditional structures. i think that has got to be encouraged. >> especially when they can get access to capital, right? i've got one and i think relates to both of these voices to the back we need to retake the conversation and we need to retake it right now. i think back to the debate of the next election i think will be decided in expire or six weeks and it's all about this whole conversation about deficits and debt ceiling and
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all of that stuff. we need to retake that conversation right now. so i haven't asked of you out there in the audience, we need to call on the leaders in the democratic party, called on the dccc do not wait until what political carry -- not wait until it's too late for resources to make sure we control the conversation. so, e-mail the executive director of the dccc, his name is robbie and his e-mail, write this down, is moved at everybody, send him an e-mail, telling how important it is that we retake this conversation, that we need resources to talk the talk about deficits and start talking a big investment in the future of our economy and our country. if we all -- tell him if he does that we will be with them. and netroots nation will be with
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them going for. make that ask and let's see if we can make something happen here today right now on this conversation. any final thoughts and anybody before we wrap it up? any last thoughts? >> last thoughts. invest. invest in yourselves. invest in each other. dream and vision big, bigger than the back and forth that we tend to get stuck in. know that there is opportunity to achieve solutions that lead outside of what we are even engaging in the current dialog, and challenge ourselves to continue to lean in to those opportunities. >> thank you. youth should have gotten to go because you're going to close us out. she is going to lift you out of your seat with a final performance he's so please welcome back to the stage. [applause]
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>> our nation is on the brink and we have been terrorized into opposition by being spoonfed of potential state of uncertainty. we have been waiting for someone to ring the alarm. too many missiles pointed in the wrong direction. too many innocent bystanders and prosecutor from a steady diet of coolness, drunk at tea party, too many intimidators with the complexity of analysis intentionally trapped in a lexicon, unintelligible to the non-insider which is most of us. too many of bolivia's who never got the memo that it was going down. just try to make it to the corner. just trying to make it across the arizona border to new mexico. just trying to make it to the collective bargaining table, to the free health care clinic, to the next mortgage payment. just try to make it. while they all stagger to the
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distorted national anthem remix with a golden oldies like old mississippi, like i wish i was in dixie, while my esteemed colleagues have the situation apply the appropriate format for profiting from a disaster to recovery economy, then click the necessary media soundbites suggested by the number of casualties, i dashed our roof is on fire and we are running to the house of the blazing timber screening, testing on our blackberries, wake the hell up and get out. this is what it means to be a freedom fighter in the 21st century. we are unraveling the we are bursting through the door hurtling over the bureaucratic couch of resignation. we are dodging the and retaliate with homegrown metrics of our own. we ought and the kitchen crafting up media sounds that not only taste good but actually makes sense when you swallow
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them. we are dousing the flames of politics. what? they can't touch me. because mine eyes have seen too many citizens on the outside looking in at their own country, too many citizens downgraded to subprime refugees. too many citizens relegated to the land of an employee's. too many last class passage are stranded and in the cycles of violence and poverty. and up in the bedroom and grows try to stimulate this economy, his lady love true democracy has yet to get open and come. because she loves the difference between our one night stand and to love. and a crime, she is pinned between false hope and inspiration. between real conversation, between photo ops and authentic engagement. between campaign slogans and genuine legislation. and between all of those in
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between, she is calling out and we are holding the broken dreams. we're thrashing through the devastation of history. vowed to repeating its. we grab it by the hand and we tell her to hold on. we tell the young father who is fighting the cycle of incarceration and poverty to hold on. we tell the upper middle class white surely on the power of faith and community to hold on. we tell the grandmother who is open a gateway for greater respect and mobility, hold on. we will wave through the broken glass to find you. shift through the wreckage to reach a. move heaven and earth to show you, but what will you do when we finally meet? our moment is now. [cheers and applause]
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>> nasa is on schedule for the foundation of the space shuttle program this friday with the launch of sts 135 atlantis. look back at the shuttle program starting with the launch of sts one columbia, 30 years ago. and explore what's ahead for nasa online at the c-span video library. search, watch, click and share anytime.
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u.s. house will gavel in at two eastern today. members will start with debate on the nimitz to defense department spending for the next budget year. some are expected deal with the u.s. mission in libya. you can see live house coverage on c-span. >> the u.s. senate is about to gavel and to continue debate on a nonbinding measure sang those earning more than $1 million a year should contribute more to the federal debt reduction. right now senators are debating whether to bring up the bill for consideration. a vote to move the measure forward could take place tomorrow. now to live u.s. senate coverage here on c-span2.
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the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray.
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sovereign god, lord of the nations, you have magnified your word above your name. as our lawmakers grapple with unyielding problems, give them the wisdom to turn to you for help. lord, you have promised to supply all of our needs, so give our senators what they need to meet the complex challenges of these days. may they take risks for the sake of truth and justice, as they acknowledge with humility their need of your abundant blessings. bless them with a fresh
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regenerating touch of your power. we pray in your strong name. amen. the presiding officer: join me in reciting the pledge. of al legiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c., july 6, 2011. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable kirsten e. gillibrand, a senator from the state of new york, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: daniel k. inouye, president pro tempore.
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the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum be
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dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: madam president, following leader remarks, the senate will resume the motion to proceed to s. 1323, which is a bill to express the sense of the senate on shared sacrifice in resolving the budget deficit. the time until 12:30 today will be equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees. the senate will recess from 12:30 to 2:15 for our weekly party caucuses. the time from 2:15 until 6:00 p.m. is also equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees. yesterday i filed a cloture motion on the motion to proceed to s. 1323. this vote will occur tomorrow. s. 1326 is at the desk and is due for second reading.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will read the title of the bill for the second time. the clerk: s. 1326 a bill to complement the president's request -- to implement the president's request to increase the statutory limit on the public debt. mr. reid: i would object to any further proceedings with respect to this matter, madam president. the presiding officer: objection having been heard, the bill will be placed on the calendar under rule 14. mr. reid: madam president, yesterday my distinguished republican counterpart said the debate over how to avert the looming default crisis sraoely a debate -- really a debate over what kind of a country we're going to be. i agree, that's certainly true. so will we be the kind of country that protects tax breaks and giveaways for the richest people and corporations while sacrificing seniors and the middle class? that is the america my republican colleagues have proposed. those priorities are backwards. democrats, on the other hand,
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believe that nation where nearly half the country's wealth is controlled by probably less than 1% of its people, that perhaps 1% should not be exempt from the sacrifices asked of everyone else. these negotiations will determine what kind of a nation we're going to be. they will also determine the character of the republican party as well. will they be the party that came to washington to help govern, to craft solutions to difficult issues facing this nation in cooperation with patriots on both sides of the aisle? or will they be the kind of single-issue, ideological party who walks away from reasonable compromise for the sake of politics? that is the question. david brooks, a conservative -- i repeat, conservative columnist for the new "new york times," hs hired for that reason, that usually liberal editorial page, they wanted someone who wrote well and was a certified conservative.
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david brooks is who they chose. david brooks believes that, it's obviously turned into the ideological paerl that walks -- party that walks away from compromise for the sake of politics. this is what he said yesterday about the logical and ideological republican party that has emerged. here's what he said -- and i quote -- "if the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see the democrats are willing to compromise, but republicans were not. if we default, he said, it will be the fault of republican fanatacism." that fanatacism is making compromise impossible, no matter how much democrats are willing to give. independent voters, brooks says -- and i quote -- "will conclude that republicans are not fit to
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govern, and they will be right." end of quote. david brooks, conservative columnist, said this. the republican party has been taken over by ideologues either devoted to or terrified by grover nordquist and his no-tax pledge, whatever that means. his republicans refuse to believe countless respected voices and have said over and over how serious a crisis we face if we fail to avoid default. and they've refused a deal brooks called -- quote -- "the mother of all no-brainers" because it violates an arbitrary pledge. never mind the deal is in the best interest of the country and gives republicans much of what they said they want. they walked away from the table. statesman dean atchison, and he was one of our great diplomats and certainly a statesman, said that -- quote -- "negotiating assumes parties more anxious to
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agree than disagree." it is no wonder then the republicans have refuseed to negotiate. they won't even admit to supporting their own long-held positions if democrats support those positions too. we should all be able to agree we need to reduce the deficit and get our fiscal house in order. democrats and republicans alike have said that. we should all be able to agree we need to avert the global economic disaster american default would cause. business leaders and economists alike have said that exact same thing. we should all be able to agree that millionaires and billionaires and oil companies, owners of yachts and jets don't need special tax breaks the rest of americans don't get. yet, republicans have defended those tax breaks again and again. they claim that democrats want
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to raise taxes on shipbuilders and airplane manufacturers. it couldn't be further from the truth. in fact, democrats want to end special tax breaks for the millionaires and billionaires who are lucky enough to be able to afford private jets and yachts. and we're happy that we stand in that way politically. these tax breaks weren't available to middle-class americas. we can't write off the family station wagon or the row boat you take fishing with the grandkids every week to see if you can catch a bass or trout. these breaks are available for multimillion-dollar toys only a handful of americans can afford. i repeat, i'm proud that democrats are standing up for america's middle class, middle-class families instead of the richest of the rich. as my republican colleagues defend tax breaks for wealthy americans, we urge them to think once again about what kind of
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party, political party they want to be and ask themselves whether they want to be the kind of party david brooks, conservative, described: a party of unreasonable fanatics who refuse to compromise no matter how sweet the deal for their side might be or no matter how grave the consequences are for our nation if they don't agree. mr. mcconnell: madam president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: yesterday afternoon we learned that over the weekend a somali terrorist who had been held and interrogated on a u.s. navy ship for the past two and a half months has been flown to new york to face criminal charges in a civilian court. a somali terrorist flown to new york to be tried in a civilian court. i strongly disagree with this decision. this mr. wasa ph*eu is a foreign enemy combatant, and he should be treated as one, should be
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sitting in a cell in guantanamo bay and eventually be tried before a military commission. warsami is an admitted terrorist. in 2009, warsami trained and fought with the military islamic group al shabab in sphol kwrafplt he has provided training. since president obama ordered the closing of the facility in guantanamo bay and end the enhanced interrogation program, senate republicans have been asking the administration what would be done with an unlawful enemy combatant captured overseas in a place other than iraq or afghanistan. at one point the c.i.a. director, leon panetta, speculated that if osama bin laden had been captured alive, he would have been sent to guantanamo. over time, it became clear that
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the administration did not have a policy in place that could address this circumstance. and so without a straight answer, we were left in the dark on how this administration would handle an enemy combatant captured overseas. finally after waiting 18 months, i think we have our answer. as was disclosed yesterday, he has been in military custody for months during which time he has been interrogated by various law enforcement agencies. however, now he has been read his miranda rights. this is a somalian terrorist captured overseas has now been read his miranda rights. why? why? why is a man who is a known terrorist and member of the united states -- and enemy of the united states being afforded the protections of an american citizen? and now he is in the hands of
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civilian authorities and will be given all the rights according to a u.s. citizen in a civilian court. it is truly astonishing that this administration is determined, determined to give foreign fighters all the rights and privileges of u.s. citizens regardless of where they are captured. in the case of aljuan and hamadei, two enemy combatants who fought and killed u.s. soldiers in iraq, they were captured in bowling green, kentucky, my state and are now awaiting trial in a bowling green courtroom, a decision being summarily condemned by kentuckians and most of their elected leaders of both parties at both the state and federal level. and now wasami, an enemy combatant with ties to al qaeda and was captured overseas and detained by the military for months is now inside the united states awaiting trial as a civilian criminal suspect. it is not necessary to bring or
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continue to harbor these terrorists within the united states. the infrastructure is already in place to handle these dangerous individuals at guantanamo. however, it has become abundantly clear that the administration has no intention of utilizing guantanamo unless an enemy combatant is already being held there. instead, the administration has purposely imported a terrorist into the u.s. and is providing him all the rights of a u.s. citizen in court, this ideological rigidity being displayed by the administration is harming the national security of the united states of america. alwan hamada, warsame and all future foreign enemy combatants belong in guantanamo. they do not deserve the same rights and privileges as american citizens.
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the administration's actions are inexplicable, create unnecessary risk here at home, and do nothing at all to increase the security of the united states. now, madam president, on another subject, yesterday i accepted the president's invitation to the white house to discuss what the two parties can do together to reduce our nation's out-of-control deficit and debt, to create jobs and to put the american economy back on a solid footing. as i have said for many months, the upcoming vote on the debt limit should be viewed as an opportunity to do something big that would send a clear message to the american people and the world that we could come together and put our fiscal house in order. now, it's notable that the president who not that long ago preferred that we raise the debt
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ceiling without any corresponding plan to do any of these things now wants to discuss the need to do something about our crushing debt burden. thursday's meeting will give us a chance to see if the president means what he says. it's an opportunity to see if the president is finally willing to agree on a serious plan to pay our bills without killing jobs in the process. until now, the president's proposals have been inadequate and frankly indefensible. it's ludicrous for the administration to propose raising hundreds of billions in taxes at a time when 14 million americans are looking for work and job creators are struggling. just last december, the president acknowledged that preventing a tax hike meant more resources were available for job creators to add employees. that was the president just last december. in describing why he decided to extend the current tax rates for two more years, because he said it would be bad for job creators. that was just six months ago and
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i don't think anybody thinks the economy is in better shape now than it was six months ago. does the president now think the economy is doing so well that unemployment is so low and economic growth so rampant that we can take billions of dollars away from these very same job creators? that seems to be what he is saying now. it's equally ludicrous to propose more stimulus spending as part after deficit reduction package. republicans and, yes, some democrats have posed these ideas because they won't solve the debt crisis and they certainly won't create any jobs. americans expected that in a negotiation about a debt crisis, that we would actually do something to significantly reduce the debt, and with so many still out of work, we expect the president to not insist on proposals that his own administration says will put even more people on the unemployment line. so we're eager to meet with the president to see if he is really willing to do something big for
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the country. we don't think it's absolutist to oppose more stimulus spending. we don't think it's maximalist to oppose hundreds of billions of dollars of tax hikes in the middle of a job crisis. we have a better term for it. common sense. so we're ready to meet with the president on thursday. maybe he will have changed his mind and returned to his commonsense approach just back in december when he said that preventing tax hikes means -- quote -- "freeing up other money to hire new workers." end quote. hopefully we can finally do something big to reduce the deficit, put people back to work and prevent medicare's bankruptcy. that should be our goal. madam president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to s. 1323, which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to
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the consideration of s. 1323, a bill to express the sense of the senate on shared sacrifice and resolving the budget deficit. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 12:30 p.m. will be equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. mr. isakson: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: i rise this morning to talk about the meeting tomorrow the president has called at the white house, a summit as which it has been referred to. i hope it will be a summit where both sides leave their weapons at the door, sit across the table from one another and begin talking about a comprehensive solution to a comprehensive problem. the solution to that problem, though, does not lie in creating villains and enemies. in the last two weeks, we have heard a lot of rhetoric coming from the white house demonizing people who have corporate jets or demonizing people who make over $1 million. i was reminded in this debate
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about millionaires of the debate in 1969 in america. it was one of my first debates that i ever watched. i had returned home from the service. i had begun my business. and a report came out in the newspaper that 155 americans who made over $1 million paid zero taxes. i personally was astounded. everybody else was astounded. and congress went to work to close the loophole and they did it by creating something known as the alternative minimum tax, something to make sure that someone who paid no tax at least paid their fair share, and i put that in quotes. today now 155 millionaires are paying the alternative minimum tax. 3,420,000,000 americans are. oftentimes when congress goes to target one person, they catch everybody in a bigger loop. i don't think we need to demonize those who employ americans, those who create the jobs, those who make our economy run any more than we should villainize those who want to save social security or medicare. the president in his last two
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speeches last week targeted millionaires, he created enemies and none of that will help us to solve the problem. the president is not the only one playing that game. a little bit of criticism can go to both sides. as we look at the chart that has been on the floor for the last two weeks about what's happened in the last 30 months since the president was elected with critical things. unemployment is up by 1.9 million people, 17% in terms of the rate. gas prices are almost double. federal debt is up 35%. but remember, it was $10 trillion when the president was elected, so it's not just the president's fault, but he is making it worse. debt per person is now up by by $11,258 and health insurance premiums by almost 20%. in fact, the only thing that's down in the last 30 months are the expectations of the american people. expectations of what our future is going to be like. so for a moment, i'd like to offer some historical suggestions as to what both sides can do tomorrow at the white house when they leave the weapons at the door, sit at the table and really begin to negotiate. one is to look back in history
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when we have had big problems and we came up with big solutions. the 1980's, a particular time. i was in the state legislature then, followed what was happening in washington. in fact, when i was 39 years old in 1983, ronald reagan and tip o'neill had a meeting at the white house. allegedly -- i wasn't there, but allegedly it went something like this. the president said well, social security is going broke in about 20 years. we just got that report. we need to fix it. o'neill said i agree. the president said i'm willing to work on it but i'm not willing to raise the tax. o'neill said i want to work on it but i don't want to cut the benefit. they looked at the actuary and said what do we do? the actuary said you push the eligibility out and get the system back into soundness. i was 39 in 1983. i would have been collecting social security at the age of 65 in 2010. but because reagan and o'neill got together, they pushed my eligibility out by one year to age 66, not age 65. and now incrementally it goes up two months a year to age 67 in a
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few years. that put the system in actuarial soundness for 67 years. the reason it is now all of a sudden in trouble again is the protracted economy and these difficulties have caused people, baby boomers, to go to the bank now of social security and collect early social security at age 62. so we have had a rush to social security because of the unemployment and the uncertainty in our economy. but reagan and o'neill fixed social security by pushing the eligibility out. they didn't raise the tax but they did raise the ceiling upon which it was levied. i think it was interesting politically, a note the president should understand and all of us should recognize, the next year was 1984, and president reagan won 49 of 50 states a year after he fixed social security. so i don't think we ought to demonize people for trying to save the bigger problems of our debt and deficit. everybody in this room knows that you couldn't cut -- you could cut every discretionary dollar out and you would still owe $300 billion in the deficit.
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we're only going to fix social security and medicare, the only ways we're going to fix the debt and the deficit. and on medicare, i was disappointed that when paul ryan and the house came up with a forthright plan, he was immediately demonized. in fact, he was invited to the white house and criticized face to face at a conference the president had. that was just for trying. it's about time all of us started trying. we started trying to find common ground. we started to look at our solutions in a comprehensive way. it's not time we stop calling names and instead we start calling numbers. we started looking at what it is we can do within our control to put our spending back in line, amortize our debt over time to a reasonable amount and reduce our deficit over time. it's not going to be fix the with one stroke of a pen or one single piece of legislation, but it is going to begin to be fixed when both sides sit down at the table and understand this is the fourth quarter of the major super bowl of the future of the united states of america, and continuing to shoot at each other and throw bricks and bats
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and create victims and create enemies and not talk about the real problems is just making it worse for all of us. it's time we made it better for the american people. i spent the weekend with the american people that live in the state of georgia celebrating our independence and the fourth of july and spending some time with five of my nine grandchildren, and i remember saturday night watching my grandchildren play in the den, looking down at them, they weren't looking at me. i was just watching them play and i thought about their future. i thought about what their future was going to be like in a country that ran unlimited debt and deficits, that inflated its dollar, lowered its expectations and was not the america that i had been fortunate enough to live, work and be born in. and recognizing my age and my time, i know that my future, the years that i have left are all about those children and those grandchildren. i want to be a part of the solution for the problem today but a part of their expectations for the future. i don't want them to look back and say granddad made it worse. i want them to look back and say granddad made it better. tomorrow is an opportunity for
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the president of the united states to lead. he has templates that he can lead with. can either choose to take isolated enemies and isolated arrows and shoot them at people or instead look back at his deficit commission, his deficit commission which i voted for, by the way. i was one of the republicans that ved for the creation of the deficit commission. they came back with a comprehensive recommendation in december that should have come to the floor for debate. it dealt with social security, it didn't deal with medicare. it dealt with the tax code. it dealt with spending. it dealt with expenditures. it lowered tax rates and raised opportunity. the president didn't even let it come to the floor of the congress of the united states. he looked the other way. it's time we look straight in each other's eye and say there are solutions out there, that good people of goodwill can find a way to do just like ronald reagan and tip o'neill did. but i don't want to be a part of just making it worse. i want to be a part of just making it better. i hope those at the conference tomorrow sit down with that type of attitude. we don't create enemies and villains. we don't make it worse. but we begin a platform and a
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template where in the next three to four weeks we can begin to amortize our debt over time, reduce our debt over time, raise the expectations of the american people and cause a brighter future for our children and for our grandchildren, and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: madam president, i'm going to speak to another issue first, but i want to thank my colleague from georgia for his comments on the floor. we're different political parties, but i listened to him and i know he's sincere. i think it is that spirit that can lead us to a solution. and i hope that we can find it. i'll address the specifics of it later in my remarks, but first i'd like to address the comments made by the republican senate minority leader, senator mcconnell. it relates to a front-page story across the united states this morning where we have apprehended a man whose name is ahmed abdul kadar warsame, a
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somali individual now being charged with terrorist crimes and going to be tried in the state of new york. this man apparently was apprehended and held for several months on a naval vessel of the united states where he was interrogated about his involvement in terrorism. and then they brought in prosecutors, criminal prosecutors from the united states who interrogated him about what they thought would be actionable crimes that could be prosecuted in the united states. he is now being brought to new york for a trial. the statement made by senator mcconnell this morning on the floor of the united states senate suggests that this was a bad decision on the part of our president and the department of justice to try this man in the criminal courts of the united states. senator mcconnell has made this speech many times before. he believes that trying terrorists in the courts of the united states makes america less
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safe and it less likely that waobgd convict them -- that we could convict them. he argues they should be held at guantanamo and tried in military tribunals. his argument has some surface appeal unless you know the facts. and the facts are that under president bush, after 9/11, and under president obama, more than 400 suspected terrorists have been tried in the criminal courts of america, article 3 constitutional courts, and convicted. they have been tried in our courts and convicted. they are serving time in the prisons of the united states of america. that's right, convicted terrorists, convicted this criminal courts now serving time in prisons across america, including in my home state of illinois at the marion federal penitentiary. so to argue that we cannot successfully convict a terrorist in the united states, as senator mcconnell did this morning, is to ignore reality. the reality is that president bush used his department of
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justice and our courts to successfully prosecute terrorists. during the same period of time fewer than five accused terrorists were tried in military tribunals. 400 in article 3 criminal courts, fewer than five in military tribunals. now senator mcconnell makes the argument, and others have joined him, that the only place to try them is in military tribunals. the fact of the matter is we don't have a very good record in military tribunals trying would-be terrorists. there are a variety of reasons for it. the supreme court didn't agree with our procedures. some of the cases were not very good. the bottom line, though, is to say to any president, whether it's republican george bush or democrat barack obama, congress is going to tell you the best place to try a terrorist. do we really have that expertise? i don't. i'm not sure senator mcconnell does. i think it's up to the president, the secretary of
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defense, the central intelligence agency, and the attorney general to make that call. take the would-be terrorist to the court where we're most likely to convict. take him to a tribunal where they're going to get a fair hearing in the eyes of the world and conviction is most likely. that, i think, is what the american people want. to come here and second-guess the president because he's held a man for two months in military interrogation and now is being prosecuted in our criminal courts is totally unfair, unfair because the same standard was not applied to the republican president who tried hundreds of would-be terrorists, accused terrorists in our criminal courts successfully. that's a fact. and that should be on the report. madam president, i ask that the second section of my remarks be placed in a separate part in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: madam president, i meant what i said about senator isakson of georgia. he's a republican and i'm a democrat, and he's my friend, and i like him. and we don't agree on everything. our voting records are much
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different. but what he had to say this morning was the right thing. and what he had to say this morning i think should open the eyes of america about where we need to go. yesterday the president sat down and said we need to be serious about deficit reduction. we don't need a mini deal. we need something that speaks authoritatively to the world that the united states understands its deficit challenge and is prepared to make the hard choices to address it. i think the president is right. i was interviewed this morning by a quincy illinois radio station. they said why wouldn't you take a mini deal and just get it over with? well, if you think you'll take a mini deal, you'll probably be offered a minimini deal and at the end of the day little or nothing will happen. here's the problem we face and it's a real problem. for every dollar we spend in washington, we borrow 40 cents. we borrow from countries all around the world. the number-one creditor to the
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united states is china. china loans us money so we can spend for government purposes. how do we spend the money? if you look at federal employees, more than half of the federal employees in the united states of america work for one department: the department of defense. if you look at expenditures, some of the fastest-growing sections of our budget have been on the military side, as we wage wars in iraq and afghanistan and participate in the nato exercise in libya. that's pretty expensive undertaking. we know that that has gone up 84%, military spending, in the last ten years, gone up 84%. we know at the same period of time that spending on mandatory programs -- that would be like social security, medicare, medicaid, agriculture payments, veterans payments. spending for those payments over the last ten years has gone up 32%. and we know that the rest of the budget, the so-called domestic
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discretionary spending which would include things like building highways, keeping federal prisons open, providing pell grants to college students, giving children from poor families early childhood education, putting money at the national institutes of health for madam chair research. that's one section of the budget. it comprises 12% of our budget. in the last ten years that part of our budget has gone up zero percent. no increase in spending in that section. most of our spending goes into the military, 84% increase over ten years, and mandatory programs, 32% over ten years. the biggest driver in terms of federal spending, the thing that we can't seem to get ahold of: health care costs. and you know that as an individual, whether you're trying to buy health insurance for your family, run a small business and trying to cover the owners and workers, or look at
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it from a state and local viewpoint when it comes to public employees. i could analyze the health care system, but i do know about it. but i will tell you that it is a model that is unsustainable. you cannot watch the cost of health care go up beyond inflation every single year and expect to control deficits whr-rbgs it's your family -- deficits whr-rbgs it's your family deficit, city deficit or national deficit. that's the reality of where we are today as we face the current situation. i listen as the senator from georgia, whom i respect very much, talk about what president obama inherited, and i would like to add a little perspective to it. the last time the federal budget balanced the budget, ran a surplus, was in the final two years of the clinton administration. william jefferson clinton, democrat president of the united states. we generated a surplus in those
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years. that is, we collected more money in taxes and revenue than we paid out. and that hadn't happened for decades. at that point, as william jefferson clinton left office as president, the national debt of america, the accumulated net national debt of america from george washington through william jefferson clinton was $5 trillion. $5 trillion. and we had a surplus in our annual budget. and when president george w. bush took over and president clinton handed him the keys to the white house, he said next year if you follow my budget, you'll have $120 billion surplus. that's what president george w. bush inherited. $5 trillion national debt. a government running a surplus of $120 billion in the next year. now fast forward eight years
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later. at the end of president george w. bush's eight years in office, let's take a snapshot what did it look like then. the national debt was no longer $5 trillion eight years later. it was almost $11 trillion. it more than doubled in an eight-year period of time. and when president obama took office, instead of being handed a budget for the next year with $120 billion surplus, as president bush was handed by president clinton, president obama was given a budget, and he said next year if you follow our budget, you will have a $1.2 trillion deficit. ten times the amount that president bush had in surplus, president obama was told you'll have that in deficit, below that much. the books don't pwafplt what happened in -- the books don't balance. what happened in eight years? several things happened. first, we waged two wars in iraq
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and afghanistan, and we didn't pay for them. i think back in my history, and i can remember as a kid that every birthday i would receive a savings bond, u.s. savings bond. and i used to think it was interesting, they would hand me these $25 savings bonds and i knew they cost $18.25 but if i didn't do anything and held on to them, they would be worth $25. grandma and grandpa would give me the $25 savings bond and i knew it cost $18.25. those savings bonds is how we fund wars. americans sack tpaoeuzed -- sacrificed and they bought savings bonds. it was my family tradition. it was the tradition in america. when it came to the two most recent wars -- iraq and afghanistan -- it didn't happen.
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we borrowed the money from other countries. during that eight-year period of time under president bush, we wage twaod wars and borrowed the money and added it to the national debt. and we did something else. no president in the history of the united states of america ever has cut taxes in the midst of a war. and you know why? because you have your ordinary budget of government; you've got to pay for it. now you've got a new expenditure with hundreds of thousands of troops in the field and families saying keep them safe and bring them home, and you're spending billions of dollars there. how could you cut taxes? that's what happened. during the bush administration, they cut taxes. two wars unpaid for, cut taxes. and then the president -- bush -- signed into law programs, dramatically expensive programs that weren't paid for. medicare part-d was one of them. you had these signed into law. at the end of that period of time the national debt rose from
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$5 trillion to almost $11 trillion. now, the republican party has a philosophy. the democratic party has a philosophy. there are those of us who think that sometimes we should listen to one another and try to learn from one another -- and i think this is one of those occasions. but i will say to my friends on the republican side of the aisle in the senate and the republican leaders in the house, those who were arguing that the best way to get the american economy moving forward at this point is to give tax cuts to the wealthiest people in america have forgotten their history. that's exactly what we did under president george w. bush, and look what happened. the biggest deficits in the history of the united states. and when barack obama raised his hand off of that lincoln bible, taking the oath of office, that month we lost 700,000 jobs in america. unemployment was running rampant and just kept going. using the republican economic theory of tax cuts for the
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wealthiest people in america. it didn't work then. this won't work now. it's a tired, old idea. it may give them points in opinion polls. it doesn't give america points and credibility around the world. and it's a position they're taking. having said that, i guess i could stop here and you could say, durbin, that was a heck of a democratic speech. let me go further. i was on that commission. i sat there for ten months and listened to everything. it was split, democrats and republicans. the president appointed the commission. there were democratic senators and republican senators and the same thing with house members. and we listened to the whole thing, and i came to the conclusion that there were some positions the republicans had taken that were wrong and there were positions that democrats had taken that were also wrong, and it was time for us to try to do something smart and to do it bipartisan. and i voted for the deficit commission. 11 out of the 18 of us did. and i think i surprised more
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people than i ever imagined, but i think it was the right thing to do. madam president, the morning i voted for it, my son, who happens to live in your state now in brooklyn, sent me an e-mail and said thanks, dad, you're doing the right thing. every dad wants to hear that one time in their lives, and i said that at this commission meeting, and it meant a lot to me, that my son, whom i greatly love, would have that kind of respect for that decision. here's what we did and here is what we need to do now and here is what we need to say to the american people. we can get out of this mess. america is a good, strong nation. we're smart, hard-working. we have a great tradition in this country when it comes to dealing with challenges, whether they are waging wars or fighting recessions, putting a man on the moon, we can do it. we've done it, we'll do it again. start with that premise. don't badmouth this country because we're lucky, we're blessed to be living here. this country in its history has proven over and over again it can tackle the biggest
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challenges and meet them head on. and you know who wins this battle when it comes to the biggest challenges? average americans. who waged our wars? who were the soldiers who went off to war? they were my brothers in the korean war. they were others, just regular old families that said it's our patriotic duty, we're going off to serve, and they continue to do it time and again. so when it comes to sacrifice, americans know that spirit as well. not only the can-do spirit but the spirit of sure, my brothers each gave four years of their lives to the united states navy and so many other families did it. and it says that americans are willing to step up and participate in a national effort. when they think we're all together as a nation moving in the right direction, they want to be part of it, i want to be part of it, america wants to be part of it. so when we come down here and talk about solutions to problems, let's talk about everybody rolling up their sleeves and getting involved. now, i know the poorest of the poor can't. they don't have the resources. they may not have the physical
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and mental ability. whatever their circumstance, i'm ready to stand and say we're going to help our most vulnerable people. asking them to pitch in and sacrifice is maybe too much in some circumstances, but the rest of us, sure, let's pitch in. and here is what we ought to do. first, we shouldn't say that anyone in america who is wealthy and comfortable in life is going to be spared from sacrifice. everybody has to give. and those who are better off than some should give more. i don't think that's unfair. life has been good to them. america has been good to them. and when we need them, they should be asked to help. so the notion of raising taxes on the wealthiest people in america shouldn't be something that we just automatically reject. it should be part of the conversation. secondly, we have a tax code that you couldn't carry with two arms, it's so big, loaded with laws and regulations and, frankly, most people don't know what's in there.
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i'll tell you the people who do know, the special interests lobbyists in washington know what's in there, the lawyers at the tax firm, they know what's in there, and some people in the committees here. and if you go into that tax code, you will find you spend almost $1.2 trillion in tax expenditures. most people don't understand that, and i learned a little bit about it in the deficit commission. here is what it comes down to. $1.2 trillion in tax expenditures in the tax code equals all the credits, all the deductions, all the exclusions, everything that you could take to reduce your tax burden, okay? $1.2 trillion also represents the entire amount of discretionary spending each year in the united states. it's a big sum of money. so we spend it in our expenditure levels, defense department, all the way through the agriculture department, everything in between, and we forgive or don't collect the same amount in the tax code.
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so who benefits from that? well, let's look at the basics. 70% of american taxpayers do not itemize on their tax returns. they file the standard return. they don't itemize. so the tax code doesn't mean anything to them. if there is a special deduction, unless it was a refundable tax credit -- rare category -- it doesn't help them. 70% of americans don't touch it. what are the biggest deductions under the u.s. tax code today? i in all my wisdom and education and experience on capitol hill, i raised my hand to the teacher and said well, it's the mortgage interest deduction, right? wrong. the biggest single deduction is the employers exclusion for health care premiums. so employers are able to exclude from income the amount of money they spend for health insurance for their employees. that's the biggest. number two, the mortgage interest deduction. i use it. my wife and i bought our home and thought about it ahead of time.
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okay, we could get a mortgage interest deduction, maybe we could buy more home. a lot of families do. when you take a look at the mortgage interest deduction and realize that 70% of americans don't itemize, then look at the 30% who do, it turns out the mortgage interest deduction, the lion's share of the money for the mortgage interest deduction goes to the very highest income categories in america. so that comes as a surprise. you think it's a middle-class tax cut. it's by and large for wealthy people. i want to preserve that part that protects middle-class families, but again shouldn't those in the highest income categories be willing to see some change in that deduction if it means that america's deficit is finally going to be brought under control? so when you take a look at the tax code, i think we need to be honest about it. there are things in there we can't afford to do any longer, things maybe we never should have done. and we can clean up that tax code. what we found with the deficit
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commission by cleaning it up we can actually produce enough revenue out of that effort to lower marginal tax rates. now, i hope my republican friends will tune in at this point because this is something they applaud, and i do, too. if we can lower marginal tax rates for families, even businesses in america, it's a good thing, and i'm for it, but it means being honest and tackling the tax code. the other thing we have got to look at are entitlements. this is where it gets dicey on my side of the aisle. people don't want to talk about it. i like paul ryan, congressman paul ryan is a smart guy. he is from the midwest. maybe i'm partial to him as a result. he is from janesville, wisconsin. he has studied this issue and knows it well. we come to different conclusions, but detackle the entitlements. i think he went too far on medicare. doubling the out-of-pocket expenses for people under medicare is a nonstarter. eliminating medicare as we know it and putting these folks in the loving arms of health insurance companies in their
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60's and 70's is not any kind of favor for the elderly in america. so i disagree with his conclusions. i wouldn't vote for him, voted against him, but i don't disagree with paul ryan saying we have got to look honestly at medicare, because if we don't touch medicare, in about 10 or 12 years, it goes broke. we can't let that happen. so we have to look at medicare in a sensible way to reduce the cost of medicare. in the medicare prx part-d program, prescription drugs for seniors, i think medicare ought to offer an option. the government ought to have an option people can choose voluntarily one way or the other to try to buy pharmaceutical drugs in bulk, reduce their costs so that seniors pay less. is that a radical concept? exactly what we do in the veterans administration. we can do it for seniors under medicare prescription part-d, reducing the cost of that
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program and the cost to seniors and creating as part of the spectrum of competition a medicare prescription program, one that people can opt in if they want to. so there are ways to save money in medicare without endangering basic benefits. here's the last thing i will say. i see my colleague from louisiana is here. i don't want to keep him waiting. i will say this. tomorrow, i will be honored to be invited to the white house with senator reed to meet the president and the leadership in the house and gnat, democrats and republicans. the president has said leave your ultimatums at the door. pretty good advice. and i think the president understands if we do not extend the debt ceiling of the united states on august 2, it will have a dramatic negative impact on the american economy. it's as if you would default on your mortgage. same -- same result. our creditors around the world will say oh, america's not going to pay its bills on time. maybe we won't loan them money. maybe if we loan them money, we'll raise the interest rate. and if they raise the interest rate on our government, they
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will raise the interest rates across our economy, whether you're borrowing for a home or a car or whatever it happens to be. so it would be the height of irresponsibility for us to default on america's debt. the debt ceiling needs to be extended so that interest rates don't go up, because if they do, it will hurt our economic recovery and put more americans out of work. the template for our meeting tomorrow should be the president's deficit commission. i will only take exception to one thing senator isakson said earlier. he said that the president did not let it come to the floor for a vote, his deficit commission. in fairness to senator isakson, that wasn't the president's responsibility. that's our responsibility to bring it to the floor for a vote. i have been trying for months, six months now with a handful of other colleagues, democrats and republicans, to bring this to the floor so that we could have a vote on it. we haven't quite reached that point. i'll keep on trying, but we should. and i think it still remains the
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best way to approach the deficit challenge, put everything, under line everything, on the table. look to that deficit commission. the sism-bowles commission gave us guidance as to how we can get out of this. and if we do, if we get it done, and we can, we can do this. i think it's going to inspire people around the world to believe again in america's future as an economy, to invest in america, to create jobs. it's going to be like the turnaround that occurred when bill clinton came to the office and said i'm taking the deficit seriously. he passed his deficit reduction plan by one vote in the house -- i was there. by one vote in the senate when vice president al gore cast the deciding vote, and look what happened to our economy. dramatic increase in job creation, dramatic increase in business ownership, dramatic increase in business creation, homeownership. that to me can happen again if we come up with a bipartisan, sensible, inclusive budget deficit plan of the magnitude the president called for
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yesterday. madam president, i yield the floor. mr. vitter: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. vitter: i would ask that the chair inform me when i have consumed 12 minutes. matt i will. mr. vitter: thank you, madam president. first i rise to celebrate that we are finally, finally, after months and months of doing everything under the sun but facing our gravest challenge, spending and debt, we're finally focused on that on the floor of the united states senate. and that's progress. we have a long way to go, but at least that's progress. for months, i have been urging us as a body, urging the distinguished majority leader who controls the floor please, let's focus on our gravest challenge, federal spending and debt, right here on the floor of the senate. not wait until the 11th hour. not wait to a crisis atmosphere around the debt limit.
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let's have a constructive debate, put meaningful legislation on the floor about spending and debt. and for months and months and months, unfortunately, we did everything but that on the floor of the u.s. senate. the majority leader looked for every bill, every topic but that and it was all sorts of cats and dogs, many of them, quite frankly, trivial, unnecessary legislation, particularly compared to this grave challenge of spending and debt. finally, last week, a group of us conservatives said enough is enough. we said we shouldn't go out on our planned july fourth recess, july fourth break which was scheduled to be all of this week, and we said we're going to block that. it takes unanimous consent for that to happen. we're going to block it. and sure enough, we did. and then we said wait a minute, we're not blocking that to be here just to be here. we're not blocking that to be
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here and continue to move on to every other issue under the sun but spending and debt. we did that to finally focus on the floor of the united states senate on this gravest of all of our current challenges, federal spending and debt. and so we said we're going to vote against the motion to proceed to the libya debate. now, libya is an important matter, and in fact that debate is long overdue in congress. those votes are long overdue, but that challenge does not rise to the level of our greatest fundamental challenge right now as a nation, spending and debt. and so we said we're going to block that motion to proceed to yet another unrelated matter, and we did. we rounded up the votes for the last half week, and we got those necessary votes to block that
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motion to proceed, and as a result the distinguished majority leader pulled that vote, vitiated that cloture vote yesterday. and so finally, finally we have an instrument on the senate floor, a motion on the senate floor about this central challenge we face, spending and debt. so that is progress. i urge all of my colleagues to come down and join this most important debate, and i continue to urge the majority leader to put meaningful, substantive legislation on the floor about this topic. we have motions on sense of the senate resolutions. it focuses us on the proper topic, spending and debt. that is progress, but of course a sense of the senate resolution does not do anything, does not change anything, so we still have further to go in terms of
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bringing meaningful legislation to the floor on this, our gravest challenge, federal spending and debt. now, why do i insist that this is our top challenge at hand? well, the facts speak for themselves. of every dollar the federal government spends, of every dollar over 40 cents is borrowed money. over 40 cents of every dollar. imagine if you ran your household that way. it wouldn't take long for you to hit a financial dead end and virtual bankruptcy if out of every dollar your family was spending 40 cents was borrowed money. what does that mean? it means we're collecting as a nation, as a federal government, about $2.2 trillion a year. that is a lot of money. $2.2 trillion. the problem is we're spending
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$3.7 trillion. way, way more than we're collecting. the distinguished majority whip mentioned entitlement spending, and i agree with him that is a big part of the issue which we must face in a careful, substantive way. because medicare is one of those big entitlement programs, it too is on an unsustainable path. the average american pays about $110,000 into medicare over his or her lifetime; a lot of money. but on average, that average american receives in benefits over $300,000 under medicare. there again, it's not tough to do the math, that is unsustainable when the average american pays in $110,000 and receives in benefits over
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$300,000. social security, another huge entitlement program. this year it's taking in less than it's spending on current retirees. that day of reckoning was going to be several years down the road. it's been accelerated. it's here, and it's here now; right now. social security is taking in in tax revenue less than it's giving in -- paying out in benefits to retirees. and so what does this mean? this adds up and up and up and up. and so we have more new debt under this administration, more new debt under president obama than the debt compiled under all of the previous presidents combined from george bush to the next george -- the latest george, george w. bush. more new debt under this president than debt accumulated
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from all of those previous presidents combined. we must do something, and we must do something about the real problem: spending and debt. washington, in a bipartisan way, has a spending problem. the fundamental problem isn't that we're undertaxed. we all know that, no matter what station in life we come from. the fundamental problem is that washington doesn't live within its means like we need to as families sitting around our kitchen tables. and so washington has a fundamental spending and debt problem, and we need real solutions, rigorous disciplined solutions to get that under control. how do we go about that? well, to me, it really comes down to three important things: cut, cap, and balance. cut, cap, and balance.
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cut. we need to cut the budget now. we need to cut the budget this year, and next year. we need immediate, meaningful cuts. and that's why i support those immediate meaningful cuts in the federal budget. we can't put off meaningful cuts for one year or five years or ten years. we need them right now. a few weeks ago we had some budget proposals on the floor. we had several republican proposals, and we had president obama's proposed budget. the obama budget didn't cut in a meaningful way. it doubled the debt in five years and tripled the debt in ten. on the republican side, we had three different alternatives, all of which cut the budget in a meaningful way. and i voted for all three. so we need to start now, today
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with cuts. but that's not enough. that's short term. we need immediate cuts. we need medium-term caps. and we need balance. and so caps. what do i mean by cap? i mean, we need established spending caps in each major category of the budget that takes some sort of extraordinary supermajority in the congress to supersede. we need a glide path to actually get through those caps to a balanced budget in a reasonable period of time. there's several proposals in this body. there's several proposals in the house, mostly from the republican conservative side; virtually all of them to establish those caps, to get us on that disciplined mandatory path so we reach that balanced budget. and third and finally, balance. the goal needs to be a balanced
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budget. and it can't be a goal generations off. it can't be a goal decades off. it needs to be a goal within our sight. and the only way ultimately i believe we can absolutely ensure that is through a balanced budget constitutional amendment. and i'm very proud to be a coauthor along with all of my republican colleagues, every single one of us, coauthor of a strong, meaningful, substantive balanced budget constitutional amendment. this has been debated in this body and the house for some time. the last time it was voted on on the floor of the u.s. senate, it came within one vote of passing. we need to have this ultimate protection and straitjacket and enforced discipline to say we're getting to a balanced budget. we're going to stay there.
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we're not going to get in this state again. virtually every state in the country has such a balanced budget constitutional amendment under their state constitution. and that enforced discipline works. that straitjacket at the state level works. it works in my state of louisiana. we have such a provision in our state constitution which says you can't have a state budget that's out of balance. and guess what? that mandate, extra straitjacket -- that straitjacket work and every year the governor working with the legislature produces a balanced budget. if they go out of session and the revenue falls and the budget goes out of balance, guess what? they have to come back in within a set period of time, and they have to rebalance that budget. it's not fun. it's not easy. it's been particularly difficult in this horrible economy for the last several years.
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but because of that mandate, because of that constitutional provision, it gets done. and that's what we need at the federal level. we need a balanced budget constitutional amendment. cut, cap, and balance. it's an important formula; simple but substantive, to get us to where we need to be. the presiding officer: the senator has consumed 12 minutes. mr. vitter: thank you, madam president. so i urge all of my colleagues, democrats and republicans to, come together and continue this debate and move it to the next level. as i said when i began, the first thing i want to do is recognize and celebrate progress. because finally, after months of resistance from the distinguished majority leader, we're finally here on the senate floor actually talking about our most pressing challenge:
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spending and debt. but it is a sense of the senate resolution. it is a procedural motion. so let's get to the real substance by having meaningful legislation: cut, cap, balance legislation put on the floor of the senate, open to the amendments, open to wide-ranging debate. that's the history and tradition of the senate. unfortunately, it hasn't been the practice of the senate all that much in recent years but we're trying to get back to that. so let's put that meaningful substantive legislation about, standing it on the floor of the senate, have that debate, have amendments, have a free flow of ideas. cut, cap, and balance. we can get there. we can do the work of the american people. we can rein in this runaway federal spending and debt. and we must. and we must now.
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because if we fail to meet this challenge this year, if we fail to meet this challenge this year, i believe there are going to be dire, dire consequences for our economy and for all american families as a result. having this topic on the floor of the senate is a start, but it's only a start. let's build on this. put substantive legislation on the floor about spending and debt, and act on that meaningful substantive legislation. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. mr. schumer: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: before i begin on my time, i'd like to ask my colleague from louisiana if he'd answer a question? would my -- mr. vitter:ite be happy to. mr. schumer: i thank my colleague. he's right, we should move on this this year. we certainly agree with that. of course the balanced budget
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amendment wouldn't take effect for years to come. but my colleague just voted for the ryan amendment which actually increased the deficit. not only did it not move deficit numbers down, but it increased the deficit. how can he reconcile all this nice, grandiose talk about a balanced budget amendment while voting for an amendment that actually increased the deficit? mr. vitter: first of all, i voted for that budget as well as the toomey budget. the toomey budget, which was my first choice preference, balances the budget in ten years. that would be my first choice. of the ryan budget gets us way down the path compared to anything else proposed on the democratic side, which on the senate floor actually got zero votes out of 100. while the ryan budget is not my first choice, it's a dramatic improvement on the path we're currently on. shy shy the high --
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mr. schumer: the ryan budget is not a step in that direction. the ryan budget, as i understand it, does not do a thing in the first decade to reduce the deficit. it cuts a lot of spending, but it also cuts taxes tanned raises defense spending. mr. vitter: if i may respond through the chair, that is not true. it reduces the deficit. it doesn't balance the budget within the t-pb-year window, which is my strong preference. the toomey budget does do that, but it gets us going in the right direction. it reduces the deficit, and it's a particularly dramatic improvement over anything sponsored by this administration. mr. schumer: i thank my colleague. i would say it's time to walk the walk, not talk the talk. whenever folks refuse to step up to the plate to towelly balance the -- to actually balance the budget -- the last president to do so would be bill clinton -- they start talking about a way distant in the future amendment.
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this balanced budget they're talking about is not going to solve our problem in the next five years. we have to get to work right now, and that's what we're trying to do on this side with a fair and balanced approach. the balanced budget amendment that my colleague speaks about, would if you look at its amendments, 18% g.d.p. it cuts deeper than the ryan budget, would end medicare as we know it, would mean that things that we take for granted like food safety inspectors and flight inspectors, would have to be cut. and then it makes it impossible to close tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires. it is not a balanced budget amendment. it is an unbalanced budget amendment. because it simply reflects an ideological view that my good colleague and friend from louisiana has, but does not reflect the views of either a majority of this chamber or certainly the american people. so let's walk the walk. let's not just talk the talk.
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i think that's very important to note. cutting spending which is done in the ryan budget is not going to work in terms of balancing the budget. you just can't unless you just decimate things like medicare without revenues. that's what i'm here to talk about today. i rise today in support of the sense of the senate on shared abg tpaoeus. the -- shared sacrifice. the clock is ticking. time is running short to reach a deal on reducing the deficit and raising the debt ceiling. we are walking the walk, not simply talking the talk about some ephemeral balanced budget amendment that is unbalanced and will not pass. yesterday the president said that we needed to reach a deal within two weeks in order to avoid roiling the financial markets. democrats are working in good faith, identifying spending cuts and tax loopholes to close.
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what are our republican colleagues doing? well, since stalking out of the negotiations two weeks ago, they are now sticking to their blind ideology and playing political games like inviting the president to come to the capitol when they know he can't, to deliver a message he's already heard. and the republican leader has continued to insist that we can't raise a single dollar in revenue, no matter how wasteful the tax break, or how generous the subsidy. madam president, here's what it's coming down to. in the homestretch of negotiations, our republican colleagues seem to be willing to tank the economy rather than end a single tax subsidy. democrats are submitted to reducing the deficit and getting our nation back on a sensible fiscal track, but we know that everyone must pay their fair share. we know there has to be
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compromise to get things done. you can't just draw a line in the sand and say my way or no way. it will lead to fiscal armageddon. so over the past several weeks, we have offered a number of wasteful tax breaks that should be ended as part of the debt ceiling deal. ending subsidies for the oil and gas industry making record profits, the ethanol industry which 36 members on the floor, including the majority leader supported to their credit, and corporate jet owners will save us tens of billions of dollars. now, paradoxically, our republican colleagues are now arguing that tax breaks for oil companies and corporate jet owners are too small to consider ending. they have argued that because they will only save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. they say that's not enough, and so we shouldn't be discussing them now. well, mr. president, i disagree. tens of billions of dollars that we can save on wasteful subsidies are certainly worth
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pursuing. but let's turn our attention to the matter at hand. one of the biggest of all taxpayer giveaways the democrats are trying to end. tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. i rise today in strong support of the senate resolution that says simply instead of ending medicare as we know it, instead of cutting college scholarships and cancer research, instead of balancing the budget solely on the backs of the middle class, let's end some breaks, let's end tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. let me repeat that because that's the essence of our dispute here, of our disagreement. you can't varnish it any other way. i know the other side tries to say they are raising taxes, trying to imply that we want to do it on middle-class people. we don't. we're not going to touch a person whose income is below below $250,000. some of us would even go
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higher, $500,000, $1 million. but every one of us on this side says if you're a millionaire, you should share some of the sacrifice, and the other side resists and then they try to hide by saying it's raising taxes. it's not raising taxes on average folks. it's not raising taxes at all. it's simply going back to the level under bill clinton where we had record prosperity, record jobs and record income growth for the highest end people as well as for middle-class people got income growth as well. so let me repeat the nub of this and why we have this resolution on the floor. here's what it says. instead of ending medicare as we know it, instead of cutting college scholarships and cancer research, instead of balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class, let's end tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. this would save over over $100 billion a year, and hundreds and hundreds of billion in the long run. it's not just a small amount. i ask my republican colleagues is that saving significant enough to at least merit
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discussion and not just take it off the table? the g.o.p. budget would end medicare as we know it to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the wealthiest americans. the resolution says simply don't let that happen. and let me say this. i respect people who have made a lot of money. there are many of them in my state. they work hard. god bless them. but many of them when you talk to them, they are the first to say they should share in the sacrifice. there are some who say no, but i don't think they represent mainstream america or mainstream american opinion. now, in normal times, this would be a consensus opinion. the fact that we shouldn't end medicare as we know it to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the richest americans. in normal times, that would be a consensus position. republican presidents and political leaders have long supported raising revenue combined with cutting spending
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to reduce deficits. ronald reagan, for instance. because he was -- he wanted to shrink government but he was fiscally responsible. but the republican party has been dragged so far to the right by an ideological fringe that they now see this balanced approach as an extreme position. what it comes down to is this -- would republicans rather end medicare than end tax breaks for billionaires? it's a simple choice. and this resolution will make the answer to that question clear. again, will republicans do anything, even risk a default that protects tax breaks on the highest income people, millionaires and billionaires? and would they rather end medicare and solely rely on cuts that hurt the middle class than admit that some tax subsidies such as those for big oil companies and corporate jet owners are a waste of taxpayer dollars?
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well, madam president, we will soon find out. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from indiana. mr. coats: i ask unanimous consent to speak to the chamber here for not to exceed 20 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coats: i don't anticipate taking 20 minutes of time. i hope to be back on the floor this afternoon talking about a related subject, but i do want to take the opportunity essentially to bring us back to what the central problem that we're facing is in this chamber and in this country, and that is dealing with an out-of-control spending program in washington, d.c., that has occurred over many, many years. in fact, the accumulation of debt not only is at the government level but it's been at the state level, it's been at
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the local level, it's been at the personal and the private level. we have been in a cycle of debt accumulation which simply is coming to an end and it's coming to an end because we no longer can afford to pay the interest and can no longer afford to fulfill the promises that have been made on a political basis to people over a whole series of years, both by democrats and republicans, and only accelerated in a dramatic fashion in the last three years where we have seen an explosion of spending at the federal level that simply cannot continue and be paid for under any system of taxation at all, and so what we have seen here is a nice deflection away from the central issue, a deflection into, well, the whole thing comes down to whether or not we tax millionaires and billionaires, and the president's speech last week would set the stage for all this discussion, is a nice
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deflection away from what we all know that we need to do. what we need to do is address this out-of-control deficit, out-of-control accumulation of debt that is simply unsustainable. now, it's -- it's puree right met i can and it's easy arithmetic. when you spend $3.7 trillion a year and your revenues coming in are only $2.2 trillion a year, you are racking up on a year-by-year basis a a $1.5 trillion or greater a year deficit, and that deficit has to be paid, and how is it paid? well, 40 cents of every dollar that is spent has to be borrowed in order to pay the promises that have been made. and so until we as a body put aside this gotcha stuff that may be politically positioning for the 2012 election but doesn't address the real problem, we're not going to solve that problem.
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there has been a lot of posturing going on, and i'm not here to address that in specific detail at this particular point in time except to say that we have to refocus on the real task before us. and the real task before us is understood by the american people. they understand that we cannot continue spending money at the rate that we are spending it. our debt has skyrocketed 35% to a limit of $14.3 trillion in just the last two years. our annual deficit, our yearly deficit now is three times greater than the highest deficit of the previous administration. today as a result of a stagnant economy and as a result of uncertainty imposed within our economic system, we have 14 million americans out of work, and that number is conservative because those are the ones that are looking for work. those are the ones that have given up. those that have given up amount
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to a significant number, and those that may never have an opportunity to get back in the work force ought to be of great concern to us. these facts combined with the warnings that have been given to us by the financial markets should make it clear to all of us from the president to members of congress and both parties and to the american people that this current plan that we are operating under, the president's economic plan, is not working, that the plan of spending more and borrowing more is not getting our economy back to where it ought to be and not getting people back to work. over the weekend, i was privileged to be able to give the republican address following the president's address to the nation, his weekly address, and in that i suggested that instead of the current proposal and plans that we are operating under this presidency, we ought to look to models that are
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actually functioning much better and working and see what we can learn from that. and representing the state of indiana, i'm proud to be able to say that the model that our state has used has taken our state from a deficit position to a surplus position without raising taxes, by reducing spending and actually cutting taxes and balancing our budget, we have now seen a significant change in the financial fortune of the state of indiana and hoosiers that occupy that state. this administration has increased spending, increased borrowing, raised taxes and expanded the growth of government, and now the credit agencies are looking at our federal government and warning of dire consequences and downgrading our debt at the same time the model used in my state of indiana, which cut taxes, cut
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spending and balanced our budget has now awarded us with a aaa credit rating, the best rating that you can get. now, the president's plan during this time, the only one that we can work off of is his submitted submitted $4 trillion budget, which would have increased deficit spending, not decreased it. interestingly enough, the only plan that we have in front of us, comprehensive plan at this point in time from the president or his party is the plan the president introduced. we have had some nice speeches and we have had some nice rhetoric. we have heard about the dire consequences of not coming up with a sensible plan before we hit the debt limit ceiling now scheduled for august 2, but the only concrete plan proposed to us here in this chamber and in the house of representatives from the opposition is a
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a $4 trillion budget which was voted on here in the senate and was defeated by unanimous vote. not one democrat voted for the president's budget plan, yet no alternate plan has been proposed. now, there may be one in the works, we would like to see it, we would like to work off it. i don't understand how you can negotiate any kind of a final proposal if you don't have something to work with that the other side has proposed. the only thing we now have before us is simply a resolution on the matter of whether or not we ought to tax millionaires and billionaires. even if we went forward and did that, even if we took 100% of all of the income earned by all of those who are in the millionaire, billionaire category, it would be a drop in the bucket compared to what we need to do. it would do nothing to adjust
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and reform spending programs and duplication of spending and bureaucratic overlap here in washington that has been accumulating for year after year after year. and so let's -- it's a nice diversion, it's a nice way of playing class warfare, it's a nice way maybe of setting yourself up for some good talking points back home, it's a nice way of positioning yourself for some good rhetoric back home if you're talking about running for re-election, but it doesn't address the problem that we have. and so here we are having canceled our july fourth recess in order to discuss the budget and discuss the plight that we're in and try to come together and fashion a plan that we can assure the american people will put us on a much sounder fiscal path, and will calm the financial markets and the rating agencies and will reassure those who invest their money in america, from all over
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the world, that we final have gotten our hands around the problem and we're coming up with sensible solutions, and america will continue to be a safe place to invest your money and the dollar will continue to be a sound currency for the -- for the world to put their confidence in. i was encouraged by the president's statement recently that we ought to move forward. as you know, last week the president's hopefully remarks on the budget were simply perhaps to satisfy his base or to politically position themselves for more serious negotiations. i hope that's the case. but it's important that the president has indicated, i believe, that we must take bold steps. we must take them now, in anticipation of what needs to be done by august 2. that he has called for a summit
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tomorrow. it's time that we put aside the political rhetoric, the gamesmanship. it's time that we got down to some serious bargaining and negotiating and coming up in what most of us believe is necessary in order to accomplish what we need to in addressing this very serious problem that has very serious consequences. there is agreement, trust, that we need serious spending reductions. some have estimated in the $2 trillion range over a ten-year period of time. others say to get at the problem and really credibly address it, it needs to be double that or more, in the $4 trillion to $5 trillion range. there needs to be a commitment to restructuring entitlement programs. we all understand and know that the three major entitlement programs of medicaid, medicare, and social security, and especially medicare, are running
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out of money, are not sustainable under the current program, and there needs to be restructuring. now, once again, this is something that is ripe for political positioning and posturing. the fact of the matter is that unless we address structural changes in the entitlement programs, those programs will have to be drastically reduced, if not eliminated, in the future because they are simply not sustainable, given the current amount of recipients drawing benefits as opposed to the money that is pouring -- going into those programs. and so anyone who says we're doing this on the backs of senior citizens, on low-income are not realistically acknowledging the facts of the matter in that these programs are going broke. so those that are standing up -- and there are some on both sides of the aisle -- those that are
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standing up and saying this has to be part of our solution to our spending and deficit probl problem, if they are saying that this is not part of the solution, they simply are telling seniors we're going to allow your program to go broke or there are going to be severe consequences. those that are advocating this, to the contrary, are basically saying we're trying to save those programs. we're trying to ensure benefits for the future, needed health care benefits under medicare, and needed benefits under comairksd and needed income -- and needed benefits under medicaid, and needed income under social security. we're trying to save those programs and keep those programs solvent so that a few years ago, as the trustees have indicated in their latest report on medicare, in a few years from now, we'll not require much more drastic action. also what we need to do is ensure that we have enforcement programs in so that whatever
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cuts and reductions and changes are made and reforms are made are not overturned by a future congress. enforcement programs to do what we are really obligated to do on this floor but don't seem to often have the political will to address effectively, programs that will automatically kick in to ensure that the goals that we have established will be reached, whether or not we have the political will to go forward and do it ourselves. yes, i do support a balanced budget. if we had had that balanced budget passed in the mid-1990's -- and there were two amendments and it failed each time -- we would not find ourselves in this position now. we would have found ourselves in the position that states find themselves in now wigs, yes, we can expend this program, but constitutionally we are mandated to balance our budget and so we have two options of getting there.
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we can either reduce spending in other areas, if this is more important and has a higher priority and use that money to pay for it, or we can raise your taxes. now let's decide what you want to do. is this program of such necessity and has the majority support in the state or the locality and the public is willing to support it with increased taxes, not unlike the school referendums where the school puts forward a plan to improve the fault facilities ore new teachers and put puts it bee the people of the school district and says, if you're willing to raise your property taxes being we can do this with education. sometimes they're passed, sometimes they fail. but it gives the public the opportunity to determine whether or not they'll pay for it, and it leaves the ultimate financial position at a level of balance. and so we should address that. there's a dispute or a
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difference of opinion between just what the components of a balanced budget should be. we should have that debate, we should go forward with that, we should work towards some sensible solution. but the only way we're going to guarantee the american people that we're not going to return to our old ways is to establish an act and give to the states an opportunity to enact a constitutional amendment to balance the budget for future spending. and finally, i want to include the need for comprehensive tax reform. as you know -- as many know in the chamber here, senator wyden and i one bipartisan basis have introduced comprehensive tax reform. we are going to talk about that a little bit later this afternoon. we've essentially said that the tax code is dysfunctional, it is -- it does not promote griewj -t does not promote growth and efficiency. it needs to be reformed. there are general consensus on
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that. we are open to suggestions of better ways, if someone else has better ideas. we do believe that a lot of the subsidies and tax exclusions and expenditures in the tax code are unfair, they're put in for the benefit of a few an not th and e many. that part needs to be reformed. there is a very interesting editorial this morning in "the wall street journal" talking about the ability to broaden the tax base by eliminating many of these exclusions but in return lowering the rates, whether they be individual or corporate rates, that would give us the opportunity to promote growth, which is an essential part of our reaching fiscal balance, fiscal sanity. the time is now. the time is not after the 2012 election. the dire situation which we find ourselves in is being watched worldwide by financial markets, by all of those who lend us money. they want to know what the
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financial future of the united states is going to be. they want to know whether or not we have the will and the commitment to address our very serious political situation, a financial situation and the political situation that goes along with it. are we willing to rise above the political and do what is appropriate and necessary for this country? so -- and the president said right now we've got a unique opportunity to do something big. i couldn't agree with that statement more. and i'm glad that the president has finally come on board and said, let's get engaged together and negotiate something big, something that will solve the problem. now is the time for us and the unique opportunity for the president to lead. but, frankly, we need more than rhetoric. we need specifics. and we need to put it on the table. we need more than some kind of rant against those who fly on corporate jets, as if that's --
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as if that subsidy, which is a depreciation issue in the tax code and actually passed by a democrat congress, is going to solve the problem. or whether we're going to impose a higher tax on billionaires and millionaires and even if those taxes went up to 100%, it is a drop in the bucket. this is not responsible way to go forward and negotiate what we need to negotiate. so let's do it. the american people understand it. they voted at the polls in november of 2010 in a way that should send a signal here that we need what's going on and we want to send people to washington that will address this very problem. as this thing has cascaded into 2011 and we've dithered and pushed offed and rethought through -- and pushed off and rethought through what the schedule is americans are getting increasingly frustrated
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with our inability to face this crisis. so now is the time to put politics secondary to what is right for america and what is right for americans. we have that opportunity, a unique opportunity. and in one sense it is good that we are running up against this debt limit balance -- debt limit crisis, because it is forcing us to stop pushing this thing down the road, to stop delaying and waiting until after the next election. it is forcing us to take action now. and so we've got about four weeks here to do what is right for the american people but, more importantly, what is right for the future of america, our children and grandchildren and generations to come. if we're going to be that generation that saddles them with debt which they can't climb out of and they aren't able to live at the simple american dream of raising a family, owning a home or place to live, providing for the education of their children and participating
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in the wonderful experience this country has had through sacrifice and commitment and dedication over all these years, if we're turning that over to our children with that broken dream and broken promise, we have not done our job. so we're here to do it now. let's have the political will to do it. let's subordinate our political considerations for 201, do what's right, and -- for 2012, do what's right, and then we will have left a legacy -- win, lose, or draw political did i ash legacy that's important for this country. madam president, i yield, if i have any time left, the balance of that tievment. the presiding officer: the senator has consumed his 20 minutes. the senator from oklahoma. who have madam president, first of all, i stand here in total agreement -- mr. inhofe: madam president, first, i stand here in total agreement with everything the senator has said. the time is right.
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it is now. you know, we've been talking about a balanced budget amendment. we've been talking about this problem for many, many years. to me, it's -- i feel great frustration that i'm even here right now in the chamber. we've quite often -- quite often what i do, i have kind of a regular schedule, if i am not on a weekend in iraq, afghanistan, or africa, someplace having to do with the duties that i have as the second-ranking member of the armed services committee, i'm back in oklahoma and i've been a pilot for 50 years, and i ghet a little plane andgy out and i talk to real people and people shake their heads and say, why are we still talking about this? why aren't we doing it? why is it that we are so wrapped up in this thing and the answer -- there's not an easy answer to this thing. we're supposed to be back here, i guess, talking about the libya resolution. i think we all realize that that's something that kind of diverts the attention of the american people from the real problem.
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the real problem, of course, is the deficit. now i -- as i see where we are and look at some of the alternatives that they have, the senator from indiana talked about the fact that the democrats want to now, i guess tomorrow morning, work on -- vote on some kind of a bill that is going to be a tax increase on the millionaires. so we're right back again with our class warfare. now, if we were to rephrase that statement from an economic perspective, w we'd say somethig like this. it is a sense sses sense of thet we should raise taxes on america's job creators to prevent the economy from recovering from this recession. because that's exactly what we'd be doing. yesterday i searched through a database of the i.r.s., their historical tax data, and if we were to tax all of the income of those incomes making $1 million or more at a 150% tax rate -- in other words, take every cent they have, it athem all -- the
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total amount of revenue generated would be $700 billion. stop and think about that. $700 billion is less than -- way less than half of the deficit that president obama gave us just this year. $1.655 trillion deficit. so we're not talking about -- it is clearly a deceptive thing. the men people, i think they assume that they're so dumb that they can tax millionaires and get us out of this mess. according to the joint committee on tax acres the 750,000 americans in the highest tax bracket report less than half of the total necessary business income earned in this country. this is the -- this is income that comes from flow-through entities like the l.l.c.'s and partnerships. it comes from small businesses. if we were to tax the small businesses as they're going to attempt to do by saying they're
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taxing the millionaires, who's going to be able to grow their small businesses? i don't know. i don't have the answer. no one, i guess is the answer. there's no question we have a serious problem in washington. our deficit is at the legal limit of $14.3 trillion. and what's caused it spending in it'its -- and what's caused this problem? it's spending. president obama has managed to increase spending by 30% -- 30%. he incurred k interest -- he incurred $1 trillion deficits each year. the statistics no one seems to care about, and we say it over and over again, that this president has increased the debt of america more in his two and a half years than all presidents throughout the history of america, from george washington to george w. bush. let me say this isn't the first time this is coming up. every time you turn around in this administration, we're going to have to increase the debt limit. if not, some great crisis is going to take place.
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we did this on february 17, 2009. i voted against it, to increase the debt limit at that time. that was the $800 billion stimulus bill. then in december of 2009, a stand-alone bill to increase the debt limit of $290 billion. it passed. we remember so well tim geithner saying if we don't do this, it's going to ruin our credit nationwide. then again in february 2010, $1.9 trillion. they increased it again. same thing. you've got to draw the line someplace. there's got to be some point at which you're going to say we're not going to do it unless we get some reductions and fiscal sanity that's built into it. so, we have right now the -- reaching the legal limit. the treasury has been shuffling money around to pay bills and they'll run out of ways to do this on august 2. if an agreement to raise the debt limit has not been reached by then, treasury will have to
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start deciding which bills to pay and which bills not to pay, and nobody wants that. in order to raise the debt ceiling, we've got to lock in reforms necessary to permanently prevent this income debt crisis. you know, madam president, we all know the scary statistics. to me, solving the problem is easy. we spent our way into this problem so we need to stop spending our way to get out of it. tax revenue has not been our problem. tax hikes shouldn't be a part of the solution. regardless, president obama has made very clear that he wants tax increases to be included in any kind of a debt limit deal. sure, he may say that he just wants to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires. you're going to hear it over and over again. all these people out there are supposed to believe this. it's just not true. i said earlier to the folks, he's -- the folks he's targeting are the ones who own small businesses and the ones creating jobs. when you target tax hikes on folks like these, you hurt everybody. this is not what we need to do
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with our economy stalling and our unemployment rate still above 9%. instead we need to cut spending in the short term. this is the program that many people adhere to now. i don't know how many we have, but i think a pledge includes about 30 members that say we need to cut spending short term, cap spending in the medium term and balance the budget in the long term to put the nation on a sustainable limited government pabl. this is the only -- government path. this is the only way out of this mess. i've been a leader here. i can remember back when i introduced the "help" act. that is when the president first came in and he wanted to take the nondiscretionary -- or the discretionary non-defense spending and freeze it at the new level after he increased it by 20%. i said no, let's go back to 2008 levels. if we had done that, we would not be facing the problem we have. decades ago when i was in the state legislature there was a
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senator from nebraska named carl curtis. he came to me one day and said i've been trying to pass a balanced budget amendment here in the united states senate for decades. the argument they used against it is the states will never ratify it. he came wup this idea, let's preratify a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. that sounded great to me and so i introduced a resolution in the oklahoma state senate preratifying, which we did, a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. that was kind of fun. we came within two or three staeufts doing this. -- three states of doing this. we wouldn't be here today with the problem we're facing. when you look at this and say it's going to be difficult, it's not difficult. but i believe the only way we're going to be able to pull this thing off and really resolve the problem is to do something about a balanced budget amendment. so we have proposed one. it's out there. senator hatch, i know, is active in this. we're all looking at it.
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and during peacetime the amendment would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers of congress to authorize a specific deficit funding level for a fiscal year. we all understand emergencies can come up, we can have wars, in which case we need to do something about it. this allows an escape, but it means two-thirds of the majority in the house and the senate would have to agree to it. importantly, the balanced budget amendment would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers to pass any -- i repeat, any kind of a tax increase. our problem is our tax increases. and that's what the president wants more of. the balanced budget amendment is the only reform that will put our nation on a true path to permanent fiscal stability. this is what we need to do. this balanced budget amendment is the reform we need and i pledge to oppose any deal to increase the debt limit that does not immediately cut the spending in the short term, cap spending in the medium term and include a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. so i urge the -- the members to
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seize upon this opportunity. we have not had a serious opportunity at a balanced budget amendment now for decades. but the time is here now because we've never faced this before. we've never had a president that has proposed and passed $5 trillion of deficit in two and a half years. and the people of america are not done. they -- the people of america are not dumb. they know we can't sustain that. they are going to say if we need to do this thing, we need to do it. the time is right. i agree with the senator from indiana who said there hasn't been a time before that is right, but this time is right. now that this legislative agenda is dead that we've been talking about, the president has pursued aggressive regulations especially through the e.p.a., that is going to seriously harm the economy. i think a lot of people are confined in their thinking about the fact that we're spending too much money. they don't realize there's also a cost to overregulation. right now almost everything that the liberals have tried to pass
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through here, such as cap and trade, the president and the -- and his colleagues in the house and the senate are trying to do through regulation, through the e.p.a. and that is just as expensive as spending money. so, i don't think it's rocket science. it's something that we can pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution and put americans back to work. these are the only things tha*ld that will resolve -- the only things that will resolve our debt problem. with that, madam president, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. a senator: i'd ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coburn: i've been
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listening to the debate this morning, and it's really concerning to me because as a physician, i'm trained to diagnose disease. disease, if you break that word up is dis-ease. we're not at ease. and i hear us talking all around. i listened to the senior senator from new york very carefully and what he had to say. i wanted to spend a few minutes actually disputing what he had to say because the premise, he said, was that if we don't raise taxes, that the vital things that are legitimate roles for the federal government would have to be eliminated. and i find that very curious, because what is lacking in the senate body today is an actual
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knowledge of all the things that we're doing. and i go back to march when the g.a.o. report came out on the levels of duplication within the federal government. and that report was eye opening to many senators. and the fact is that report only covered the first third of the federal government. i've long said during the past seven years in the senate that one of our problems is we don't -- the government is so big, we don't know everything it does. and what came out of that report was a tremendous list of duplications, programs that do exactly the same thing in multiple different agencies. for example, we have 124
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different programs to encourage students in math, science, engineering and technology. why would we do that? why would we pay for 124 sets of administration? why would we have the first program for science, technology, engineering and math that doesn't have a metric on it to see that it works? you know what the report said is none of them have a metric on it to measure whether or not it's effective. we have 47 different job training programs. 47. the report said all but three of them overlap one another, and none of those have any metric to see if they're effective or work. they cost $18 billion a year. we have 42 different programs to
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teach americans how to be credit worthy and financially sound. 42 across six different agencies. the fact is the senate doesn't know what it's talking about. when we make statements that say if in fact we make major cuts in the discretionary portion of our budget that the things that we count on will have to be sacrificed, it's just not true. for there is at a minimum $350 billion a year spent on duplication within the federal government, and waste. that doesn't count fraud, which is at least $100 billion a year in medicare. it doesn't count the pentagon, where we have the pentagon having duplicate weapons systems, noncompetitive contracts, cost-plus contracts
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where we have requirement creep so that they end up costing much more than they ever should because we don't have a responsible person over there saying, no, you can't have everything. what we want is to have the things that we need. so this whole idea that the sacrifices that need to be made are going to be highly painful is just untrue, because that's how much waste there is in the federal government. at least $350 billion a year. and that doesn't count the $100 billion in medicare that's defrauded in waste. tha*eurpl proper payment -- their improper payment rate is in excess of $10 billion a year. if you have $100 billion worth of fraud and then an improper payment rate that is around 10%, we could easily solve our budget problems just by eliminating
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duplication and eliminating fraud. but that requires a lot of hard work to do the oversight. that requires a lot of legislative work to eliminate duplication. it requires us to stand up and do what is necessary for our country. we don't have a problem in general with revenue. what we have a problem is the federal government's taken 26% of our g.d.p. just to operate itself, and 40% of that is borrowed. so as a physician, what my training would tell me to do is go directly to the disease. don't treat the symptoms of the disease. go directly to where the disease is. and the disease is we have a magnitude, orders of magnitude of duplication all well-meaning, all well-intentioned, that we
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won't sit down and work on eliminating. so i thought i'd just spend a few minutes, just going through by department. the department of agriculture has 130 duplicative programs. 130. and i will submit for the record just a few of these, because i don't want the record to be too many. just for example, biomass programs at the department of agriculture. we have the biomass crop assistance program, the biobased products of bioenergy program, the new urban rural competitive grants program for biomass. this can all be combined into one at a third of the cost with exactly the same results, but we don't have the energy, the time, or the motivation to go sol


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